HONG KONG • Hong Kong’s privacy chief has criticised the US Treasury Department for “doxxing” Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials by releasing their personal information as part of its sanctions on them.
“The disclosure of the data of the persons concerned by the US Department of the Treasury is obviously excessive and unnecessary,” Acting Privacy Commissioner Tony Lam said.
Using or reproducing the addresses, passport numbers and other data could be a crime, he added. “It amounts to doxxing.”
The US last Friday said it is sanctioning 11 Chinese officials and their allies in Hong Kong over their roles in curtailing political freedoms in the former British colony.
Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong has undermined the city’s autonomy and infringed on the rights of residents, it said.
Mrs Lam was targeted for her role in implementing Beijing’s policies “of suppression of freedom and democratic processes”, according to the US statement.
The Trump administration has escalated pressure on several fronts against China’s growing role on the world stage, which has become a key campaign issue in the upcoming US election. President Donald Trump has threatened to take action since Beijing imposed the sweeping law in June.
China’s implementation of the law and the reaction of major trading partners which have criticised it could have a substantial impact on the Hong Kong economy that is already battered by months of anti-government protests and coronavirus restrictions.
The sanctions also emboldened critics of the Hong Kong government elsewhere, with a British lawmaker reviving calls for curbs on it.
In Hong Kong, the reaction has been a chorus of criticism from local officials, with Mrs Lam’s government calling the move “shameless and despicable”, while Beijing’s Liaison Office in the city said Washington had “miscalculated”.
The sanctioned individuals include Mr Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council, and Mr Chris Tang, commissioner of the Hong Kong police force.
“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
The targeted people will have any property and assets in the US frozen. But it is not clear if any of them will be affected financially.
Mr Luo Huining, the director of the Liaison Office, said he does not have any assets or property in any foreign countries.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said local banks have no obligation to follow US sanctions under Hong Kong law and that the lenders should treat customers fairly in assessing whether to continue providing services to them.
The city’s Securities and Futures Commission said that in considering the sanctions’ implications, intermediaries are expected to “carefully assess any legal, business and commercial risks that they may be exposed to”, adding that it expects any response to the restrictions to be necessary, fair and in the interest of the “integrity of the market”.
The regulator said it is “monitoring closely the impact the sanctions may have… in Hong Kong”.
Mr Lam said he would write to the US to express disappointment over the release of the data.
Chief Executive Lam said she may cancel her US visa, which is valid until 2026. She suggested that the US Treasury may have obtained her information from a visa application in 2016, without updating her address.