HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong has filed a formal objection with the United States over its demand for “Made in China” labels on goods exported from the Chinese semi-autonomous city, the commerce secretary said on Wednesday.

Washington’s move last month followed China’s imposition of a national security law on the former British colony and a U.S. decision to end a special status that had allowed Hong Kong different treatment from the rest of China.

Now Hong Kong authorities find themselves in a bind over having had to reject the “Made in China” label at a time when they are cracking down on activists opposing China and the city’s pro-Beijing government.

Commerce Secretary Edward Yau said he formally asked the U.S. consulate to relay Hong Kong’s request for withdrawal of the new regulations to U.S. trade officials.

“Such regulations go contrary to WTO (World Trade Organization) regulations and infringe upon our rights as a separate customs region,” Yau told reporters. “We are a separate, and indeed, independent member of the WTO.”

Yau, who first complained about Washington’s move in August, said Hong Kong reserved the right to seek dispute settlement at the WTO.

The comments come a day after the WTO ruled that additional tariffs imposed by the United States against China in 2018 were inconsistent with global trading rules.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a one country, two systems agreement that promised it a high degree of autonomy for 50 years.

Many credit its unbridled capitalism, guarantees of a wide range of rights and freedoms, and independent legal system with helping Hong Kong to prosper as a global financial hub and interface for China and the world.

But critics say the new security law, targeting activities that Beijing considers to be subversion, secessionism, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, effectively brings Hong Kong closer to China’s authoritarian system.

Supporters of the law say it will bring stability after a year of anti-government protests.

The United States has extended until Nov. 9 its enforcement deadline on the “Made in China” label, from Sept. 25 previously.

(Reporting by Aleksander Solum; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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