WASHINGTON • The United States is placing sanctions on 11 top Chinese officials and their allies in Hong Kong, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam, over their role in curtailing political freedoms in the former British colony, the Treasury Department has said.
It said Beijing’s imposition of draconian national security legislation in June had undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and allowed mainland security services to operate with impunity, “setting the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China”.
“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 in a statement yesterday.
Mrs Lam was sanctioned because she is “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes”, the agency said.
The other six Hong Kong officials on the blacklist are Police Commissioner Chris Tang, his predecessor Stephen Lo, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka Chiu, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang, and the newly appointed head of the national security committee, Mr Eric Chan.
The four Chinese officials on the list are Mr Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) of China’s State Council; Mr Zhang Xiaoming, former HKMAO director who had been demoted; Mr Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office, Beijing’s office in the financial hub; and Mr Zheng Yanxiong, who heads the Office for Safeguarding National Security. The 11 sanctioned individuals will have any property and assets in the US frozen.
But Mrs Lam, who works closely with the Chinese authorities, had scoffed at the prospect of being targeted by US sanctions.
“I do not have any assets in the United States nor do I long for moving to the United States,” Mrs Lam told reporters on July 31, adding that she would “just laugh it off” if the Trump administration sanctioned her.
The sanctions are being carried out under an executive order President Donald Trump signed last month seeking to punish China for its moves against dissent in Hong Kong.
Mr Trump has been threatening to take action ever since Chinese officials imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong on June 30.
China’s implementation of the law, and the reaction of major trading partners who have criticised it, could have a substantial impact on a Hong Kong economy already battered by months of historic anti-government protests and coronavirus restrictions.
Last week, the authorities in Hong Kong drew new red lines on the limits of dissent in the financial centre, barring a dozen activists from seeking office and arresting four others over social media posts.
The back-to-back actions highlighted how much the national security law has strengthened Beijing’s hand.
Earlier this week, China’s state-owned tabloid Global Times ran a story suggesting a recent meeting between US Consul General Hanscom Smith and a pro-democracy politician could violate the new legislation. The US consulate yesterday called the suggestion “ludicrous”.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE