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HKSAR slams adverse US move on bilateral agreements

By Wang Zhan | | Updated: 2020-08-20 13:03
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HONG KONG - The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government severely reprimanded the United States on Thursday for what it described as a "unilateral decision" to suspend or terminate three bilateral agreements.

The US Department of State announced on Wednesday the suspension or termination of Agreement on the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders (SFO), the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) Agreement and the Agreement concerning Tax Exemptions from the Income Derived from the International Operation of Ship.

The move was cited as part of the so-called "ongoing implementation measures" following a July 14 executive order issued by US President Donald Trump.

"Contrary to what was alleged in the US President's Executive Order, these agreements are not US' preferential treatment for Hong Kong. They are bilateral agreements negotiated in good faith to benefit the peoples and businesses of both sides in areas of law and order, shipping and tax treatment. The US' unilateral decision reflects its disrespect for bilateralism and multilateralism under the current administration and should be condemned by the international community," a spokesman for the HKSAR government was quoted as saying in a press release.

The spokesman said that Hong Kong was being used as a pawn to sour the China-US relationship and the HKSAR government strongly objected to it.

The spokesman pointed out that since the SFO Agreement came into force in 1998, Hong Kong had facilitated the surrender of 69 fugitives to the US, much higher than 23 fugitive offenders surrendered to the HKSAR from the US.

The spokesman stressed that the HKSAR had in place a comprehensive co-operation regime for the surrender of fugitives and its government will continue to uphold the principle of mutual assistance and reciprocity in accordance with the law.

The TSP Agreement allows sentenced persons to return to their places of origin to serve their sentence and is seen as conducive to their rehabilitation. The US' decision "defies values of humanitarianism", the spokesman said.

On the US decision to suspend reciprocal tax treatment on shipping with the HKSAR, the spokesman was quoted as saying in the press release, "Should the Agreement between Hong Kong and the US be terminated, for the US companies, they would need to pay taxes to both the US and Hong Kong governments, whereas Hong Kong companies will be required to pay tax to the US government only, as their shipping income are exempted from tax liability in Hong Kong..."

Pointing out that the Basic Law confers special status to Hong Kong under "one country, two systems", the spokesman was quoted as saying in the press release, "Article 116 of the Basic Law provides that the HKSAR is a separate customs territory; Article 151 provides that Hong Kong may on its own, using the name 'Hong Kong, China', maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements with foreign states and regions in a range of appropriate fields."

The HK government urged the US administration to stop interfering in the SAR's internal affairs and said it would move the World Trade Organization (WTO) against US' measures on Hong Kong products exported to the US.

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