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International relations

Trump signs Hong Kong bill to punish Chinese officials and banks

Move comes with executive order to revoke city's preferential treatment

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on July 14.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a bill requiring sanctions against Chinese officials involved in Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong as well as banks that do business with them.

Trump made the announcement during a news conference at the White House Rose Garden. The president said he also signed an executive order that would end preferential treatment to Hong Kong in tariffs, export controls and other areas.

The actions came weeks after Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong that criminalizes separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign interference -- charges punishable by life imprisonment.

The U.S. bill, which unanimously passed both chambers of Congress before heading to Trump in early July, sets a 90-day deadline for the American government to identify Chinese individuals subject to Hong Kong-related sanctions.

The government then has another 60 days to identify financial institutions "knowingly" conducting transactions with those individuals. The institutions will be hit with at least five of the bill's 10 sanctions, such as bans on banking transactions or foreign exchange services subject to American jurisdiction.

Last week, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four Chinese individuals, including Chen Quanguo, a top official in the Communist Party's 25-member Politburo, over Beijing's mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Trump's Tuesday news conference largely focused on criticizing his political opponent Vice President Joe Biden's record on China. The event also followed revelations by former national security adviser John Bolton about how Trump conducted foreign policy.

In a tell-all book which Trump sought to block, Bolton alleged that Trump told Chinese President Xi Jinping that building more camps in Xinjiang was the right thing to do, and refused to speak out on Hong Kong when he was negotiating a trade deal.

The president said he had "no plan" to speak to Xi when asked by a reporter.

His administration last week also threatened to ban TikTok, the viral short video app operated by Chinese media startup ByteDance, citing national security concerns.

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