Hong Kong may be weak link for US technology, US senators warn

US President Donald Trump's trade war with China being waged in part over the issue of intellectual property theft as well as its drive for technological dominance.
US President Donald Trump's trade war with China being waged in part over the issue of intellectual property theft as well as its drive for technological dominance.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - A bipartisan group of US senators has told the Trump administration that they are concerned about whether US export controls are strong enough to prevent China from getting sensitive American technology through Hong Kong.

"We believe it is critical that the United States take appropriate measures to ensure China does not abuse Hong Kong's special status under US law to steal or otherwise acquire critical or sensitive US equipment and technologies in support of its strategic objectives or to infringe on the rights of people in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and elsewhere," the senators wrote in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.

The document is signed by Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senators Mike Crapo and Sherrod Brown, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee. It is also signed by Republican Senators Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, and Pat Toomey, and Democratic Senators Ed Markey, Ben Cardin and Jack Reed.

US President Donald Trump's trade war with China being waged in part over the issue of intellectual property theft as well as its drive for technological dominance.

Members of Congress are adding objections to China's use of technology to suppress dissent as protests rock Hong Kong.

"The Chinese government has demonstrated its willingness to use both licit and illicit means to acquire and advance its development of technologies such as artificial intelligence, tools of mass surveillance, and advanced robotics, among others," the senators write.

"China is using these technologies not only to bolster its own industries, but also to advance its military capabilities and to infringe on the fundamental liberties of its citizens."

 

The senators say they are also concerned about the export of police equipment, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, "which may be used to suppress legitimate civil dissent."

Hong Kong has been hit by more than three months of unrest and demonstrations against the Chinese government's tightening grip over the former British colony. Thousands of protesters on Sunday marched to the US consulate in the city in an appeal for support from Trump.

The senators asked for a response by Oct 1, and pointed out that "This situation continues to become more critical by the day."