US move to end Hong Kong's preferential status and cut ties with WHO 'extreme, suicidal': Chinese state media

Tensions have soared over issues including the coronavirus outbreak and Hong Kong's status. PHOTO: REUTERS

A Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper has hit back at US President Donald Trump's move to cut ties with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and end the country's preferential treatment for Hong Kong, calling it "extreme and suicidal".

The nationalist tabloid Global Times, which is owned by the CCP's official People's Daily, said in an editorial shortly after the US leader's press conference that Mr Trump was trying to distract Americans from his "incompetence" in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

"The United States is moving against the tide of history. By withdrawing and imposing sanctions, they are only making themselves sicker and weaker. This set of extreme tactics are tantamount to committing chronic suicide as a superpower," said the editorial on Saturday (May 30).

There was no immediate official response from Beijing.

Mr Trump's announcement on Hong Kong, made on Friday in Washington, will mean that the city, which is currently treated separately from mainland China in matters of trade and commerce, will be subject to US tariffs on Chinese goods as part of the ongoing trade war.

It comes just two days after China's parliament, the National People's Congress, passed a resolution to enact national security laws in Hong Kong.

Critics fear the laws would undermine the city's autonomy, which operates under the "one country, two systems" framework, and pave the way for Chinese security agencies to operate openly in the territory.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said days before the announcement by Mr Trump that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China to warrant special treatment.

The Global Times said Washington's move would ultimately harm itself.
"The US may need to calculate its loss first. Hong Kong is a contributor to tens of billions of US trade surplus each year and the city is closely connected with the interests of many big American companies," it said.

On Friday night, Beijing's foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying rebutted the US' criticism that national security laws in Hong Kong would amount to a Chinese take over of the city, tweeting: "Ridiculous. Hong Kong is part of China. Could someone be accused of taking over his own hand?"

This is the latest salvo in the confrontation between the two superpowers - between which tensions have soared over issues including the coronavirus outbreak and Hong Kong's status.

Mr Trump and other American officials have also been stepping up provocations of China over the outbreak, referring to Covid-19 as a "Chinese virus", attacking Beijing's handling of the outbreak.

On Friday, Mr Trump repeated accusations that the WHO was beholden to Beijing, saying that Chinese officials ignored their WHO reporting obligations and pressed the agency to mislead the world when Chinese authorities first discovered the virus.

He added that the US would be terminating its relationship with the organisation.

Washington is the largest contributor to the WHO - making up about 15 per cent of it's total funding.

Chinese experts say Mr Trump's announcements were a political gambit to shift blame to China, and said they did not expect a major official reaction from Beijing.

Dr Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, said Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from the WHO was "unproductive and damaging".

"This is a time where developing and developed countries are suffering and we need a strong WHO to act. The organisation might need improvements but totally withdrawing is not the approach to take," he said.

Professor Zhu Feng, director of Nanjing University's Institute of International Studies, said while Chinese leaders stressed the need for both sides to cooperate over the past week, this was not possible if Mr Trump continues to take such a hardline stance.

"I think there is no chance that China-US relations will get better before the US elections in November. Trump is completely unreasonable, he is just guided by his own domestic political interests," he said.

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