U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned China against interfering with the work of U.S. journalists in Hong Kong, and said actions impinging on freedoms there could damage diplomatic relations.
“These journalists are members of a free press, not propaganda cadres, and their valuable reporting informs Chinese citizens and the world,” Pompeo said a statement.
Pompeo said without offering details that “it has recently come to my attention that the Chinese government has threatened to interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong.”
The U.S. and China are escalating disputes across several fronts, including trade and responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic. The flow of information has been a source of contention, with dozens of journalists expelled from both countries in recent months. Beijing warned of further retaliation last week after the U.S. reduced work visas for Chinese media staff to 90 days.
Pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong have resumed recently, as protesters hope to regain momentum with the coronavirus showing signs of subsiding in the financial hub. Beijing is growing increasingly assertive over its role in Hong Kong, looking to tighten its supervision over politics ahead of elections for the city’s Legislative Council in September.
“Any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory,” Pompeo said.