• Trump said the action on Hong Kong would “affect the full range of agreements"
  • Trump said he would block Chinese graduate students deemed security risks from reentering the United States
  • Trump said WHO had failed to hold China to account for its handling of the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic

President Trump on Friday said the U.S. would end its special relationship with Hong Kong in the wake of moves by China to suppress the pro-democracy movement and terminate ties to the World Health Organization, accusing the agency of failure in handling the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic by not holding China to account.

The moves ratchet up tension between the world’s two largest economies as the pandemic continues to ravage the globe, killing nearly 362,800 worldwide – more than 102,300 in the U.S. alone -- by late afternoon Friday.

Trump listed a range of grievances against China during a Rose Garden news conference, denouncing everything from trade practices to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He did not, however, announce any sanctions against Chinese officials or cancel any part of the phase 1 trade deal with Beijing.

Trump denounced China’s treatment of Hong Kong, which had been rocked by months of sometimes violent protests last year that waned only with the outbreak of the pandemic. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China’s adoption of a security law that bans subversion and other perceived offenses against Chinese rule means Hong Kong is no longer autonomous, putting its special trade status in jeopardy.

“This is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, the people of China and indeed the people of the world,” Trump said in revoking the special trade status. Trump said his decision would “affect the full range of agreements, from our extradition treaty to our export controls on dual-use technologies and more, with few exceptions.”

He continued: “China claims it is protecting national security. But the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formally a bastion of liberty.”

Trump said he would block Chinese graduate students who had been “identified as potential security risks” from reentering the U.S. accusing China of conducting “illicit espionage to steal our industrial secrets, of which there are many.” China has been a top source of foreign students for years and a major source of revenue for universities because they pay full tuition.

Trump also said he would break ties to the WHO. He earlier suspended $450 million a year in funding, accusing the agency of allowing China to run roughshod over it and failing to hold Beijing to account. He said the WHO misled the world about the virus and allowed the contagion to spread unabated for weeks.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization," Trump told reporters.

“The world needs answers from China on the virus. We must have transparency.”

Beijing has denied downplaying the threat when the virus first surfaced in the industrial city of Wuhan late last year and accused Washington of trying to shirk its responsibilities.