U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday said it had come to his attention that the Chinese government had threatened to interfere with the work of U.S. journalists in Hong Kong, and said any decision impinging on Hong Kong's autonomy could affect the U.S. assessment of Hong Kong's status.
"These journalists are members of a free press, not propaganda cadres, and their valuable reporting informs Chinese citizens and the world," Pompeo said in a statement.
Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, and the territory was promised a "high degree of autonomy" for 50 years, something that has formed the basis of the territory's special status under U.S. law, which has helped it thrive as a world financial center.
Pompeo announced on May 6 that the State Department was delaying a report to Congress assessing whether Hong Kong enjoyed sufficient autonomy from China to continue receiving special treatment from the United States.
He said at the time the delay was to allow the report to account for any actions Beijing might contemplate in the run-up to China's May 22 National People's Congress.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have spiked in recent weeks, as Pompeo and President Donald Trump have complained about China's early handling of the coronavirus outbreak.