The United States has imposed sanctions on seven Chinese officials for Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong. This is Washington’s latest effort to hold China responsible for what it calls an erosion of the rule of law in the former British colony.
The sanctions, released Friday by the U.S. Treasury Department, are aimed at individuals from China’s Hong Kong liaison office, used by Beijing to orchestrate its policies on Chinese territory.
The seven people added to the Treasury’s “specially designated nationals” list were Chen Dong, He Jing, Lu Xinning, Qiu Hong, Tan Tienui, Yang Jianping and Yin Zonghua, all directors added to the liaison office, according to online data.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last year’s Chinese officials had “systematically.” undermined “Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, delayed elections, disqualified elected legislators from office, and arrested thousands for disagreeing with government policies.
“In light of last year’s Beijing decisions that sparked the democratic aspirations of the people in Hong Kong, we are taking action. Today we are sending a clear message that the United States remains firmly with Hong Kongers,” Blinken said in a statement.
The Treasury Department referred to a separate updated trade consultation issued jointly with the departments of State, Commerce and National Security that highlighted the U.S. government’s concerns about the effect on international companies of the Hong Kong National Security Act.
Critics say Beijing enacted this law last year to facilitate a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and a free press.
The council said companies face risks associated with electronic surveillance without mandates and the return of corporate and customer data to authorities, adding that individuals and businesses should be aware of the potential consequences of engaging with individuals or sanctioned entities.
The actions were announced just over a year after former President Donald Trump ordered the end of Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to punish China for what he called it. ” oppressive actions ”against the territory.
The United States already has sanctions imposed on other senior officials, including Hong Kong chief Carrie Lam and former police officers, for their roles in reducing political freedoms in the territory.
Hong Kong officials have already called those US sanctions “hostile acts of hegemony.”
The US Trade Council in Hong Kong is like the UK’s half-yearly reports – there’s nothing you don’t know or haven’t heard of, but this is the official US version of what it is happened in Hong Kong after NSL. A signal for American companies: think twice.https://t.co/FZ138sH8bY pic.twitter.com/36vIIcSPIm
– Kris Cheng (riskrislc) July 16, 2021
Earlier Friday, Xia Baolong, the director of the Chinese Office of Hong Kong and Macau, was quoted by the Hong Kong Free Press as saying that the sanctions “will only evoke our anger.”
“Just lift a rock and let it weigh on your feet.” The long river of history has shown countless times that victory must belong to the indomitable Chinese people! “Xia said in a speech.
Also Friday, Hong Kong national security police searched the University of Hong Kong student union, after government and university officials denounced the students for allegedly sympathizing with a man who stabbed a police officer in early July.
President Joe Biden said Thursday at a news conference that the Chinese government had broken its commitment on how to deal with Hong Kong since its return to Chinese control in 1997.
China had promised universal suffrage as the ultimate goal for Hong Kong in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which also says the city has broad autonomy from Beijing.
Since China imposed national security law to criminalize what it considers subversion, secessionism, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces, most pro-democracy activists and politicians have found themselves trapped by it or arrested. for other reasons.
Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s most vocal pro-democracy newspaper, was forced to end a 26-year run in June amid crackdown that frustrated the company’s funds.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing before the actions were officially announced that the United States would stop interfering in Hong Kong and that China would make a “strong and resolute response.”
A source told Reuters news agency Thursday that the White House was also reviewing a possible executive order to facilitate immigration from Hong Kong, but that it was not yet sure it would be implemented.
U.S. Vice Secretary of State Wendy Sherman plans a visit to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia next week. The State Department’s announcement of his trip did not mention any milestones in China, which had been anticipated in foreign policy circles and reported in some media.
A senior State Department official told reporters Friday that Washington was still in discussions with Beijing to find out if Sherman was visiting China.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government reinforced warnings to companies about the growing risks of having a supply chain and investment links in China’s Xinjiang region, citing forced labor and human rights abuses, which Beijing has denied.
“We hope that any additional US action in relation to Hong Kong will remain targeted, and that Washington will avoid harmful policy choices for the people of Hong Kong,” said Anna Ashton, vice president of government affairs at the Hong Kong Council. US-China companies. advice issued Friday.
The South China Morning Post also reported that the latest decision was greeted with a “collective shrug” by analysts.
The Hong Kong-based news publication quoted former US Consul General in Hong Kong Richard Boucher as saying: “Every time there is some news from China putting more pressure on Hong Kong, there is pressure commended by the USA for doing something. But there is no longer a lack of things to do. “
Other analysts have also been reported saying the move is more symbolic, as the United States is “caught between pressure to respond to the Beijing struggle and a business community that is still seeking market access.”