US senators warn HK may be weak link for technology

A bipartisan group of senators has told the Trump administration that they’re concerned about whether U.S. 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 U.S. law to steal or otherwise acquire critical or sensitive U.S. 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 move comes as more U.S. lawmakers question the special trading relationship with Hong Kong that underpins its economy as pro-democracy protests throw the financial hub into turmoil. While dual-use technology with consumer and military applications represent some 2 percent of U.S. exports to Hong Kong, restricting sales could potentially do irreparable harm to the city’s image as a safe hub for global business.
Thousands of protesters marched to the city’s U.S. consulate this weekend in an appeal to President Donald Trump. They support the passage of the U.S. Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which is backed by prominent American lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and calls for annual assessments on whether the city is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to continue its special trading status.
A U.S. government report said earlier this year that the city’s autonomy was “sufficient – although diminished.”
Trump’s trade war with China is 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 pro-democracy 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 U.S. 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.”
The senators asked for a response by Oct. 1, pointing out that the “situation continues to become more critical by the day.” MDT/Bloomberg

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