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Chinese policymakers in Beijing  have seized on the disruption of the coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak to approve new national security laws for Hong Kong, tempting further censure from the US and a return of the bitter public protests that rocked Hong Kong a year ago.

The law, which will ban ‘sedition, secession and subversion against Beijing’ is still being drafted but, when implemented, it will bypass the city’s legislature ending the dream of ‘one country, two systems’. The CEOs of both HSBC and Standard Chartered garnered rebuke when they came out in support of the move which has re-ignited the smouldering power struggle between the US and China.

Trouble brewing

Following the news, President Trump was quick to announce the revocation of its special trading status – something which until now has protected Hong Kong from US trade tariffs.

Mr Trump kicked off this latest round of China/US brinkmanship after his administration’s handling of the US outbreak was found wanting and he began blaming China for the pandemic. It’s since escalated beyond all expectations. In recent weeks the US has issued investment bans, human rights legislation and mounting trade restrictions. It’s also renewed its war with China’s technology flag carrier, Huawei.

The US has now banned Huawei from using any chips that contain American intellectual property, which could put Huawei out of business. The battle lines have also changed thanks to the polarising nature of China’s latest gambit.

Whereas Boris Johnson recently allowed Huawei up to a 35% stake in the UK’s 5G infrastructure, this is now off the table. Meanwhile, the UK’s prime minister has promised to grant a route to UK citizenship to as many as three million eligible Hong Kong residents should China fail to relent.