The United States on Friday, Aug. 7, sanctioned Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s head of government, and 10 other officials, for damaging the island’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression of its citizens. The move comes on top of others by the Trump administration that seek to condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s abuses and undermine its influence in free countries.
According to a statement issued by the Treasury Department, the sanctions were imposed under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on July 14 after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pushed through its controversial national security law.
In addition to Lam, the Washington measure affects current Commissioner of Police of the Hong Kong Police Force Chris Tang, former Commissioner of Police of the Hong Kong Police Force Stephen Lo, Secretary of Security John Lee Ka-chiu, and Secretary of Justice for Hong Kong Teresa Cheng.
Six other people were also sanctioned, including the CCP’s top official in Hong Kong, Luo Huining, and the Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing Xia Baolong.
The sanctions provide freezing of any U.S. assets held by the affected officials and prevent Americans from doing business with these individuals.
The 11 officials were sanctioned for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of the citizens of Hong Kong,” noted the text issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“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.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter, “We will not stand by while the people of Hong Kong suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or its enablers.”
Today, the U.S. is designating 11 individuals responsible for the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. We will not stand by while the people of Hong Kong suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or its enablers.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 7, 2020
In a statement issued by the State Department, Pompeo said the measures “send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable” and contradict the commitments made by Beijing summarized in the so-called one country, two systems.
Tensions between the White House and Zhongnanhai have been rising in recent weeks to what analysts said is their worst level in decades, according to Reuters.
This week, for example, President Trump issued a series of executive orders to ban U.S. transactions with Chinese owners of the WeChat and TikTok applications.
As for Hong Kong, after the CCP passed the national security law, the White House ordered an end to the privileged status the former British colony had enjoyed under U.S. law compared to the mainland.
Washington was also highly critical of Lam’s recent decision to postpone the Sept. 6 elections for the Hong Kong Legislature by one year, which, according to Reuters, is a blow to the pro-democracy opposition that had hoped for great results in the elections.
The U.S. government called the postponement, “The latest in a long line of unkept promises by Beijing, which had promised autonomy and respect for the freedoms of Hong Kong’s people.”
“The United States condemns the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone the next Legislative Council election by one year … There is no valid reason for such a long delay,” said Pompeo.
In a statement issued on Aug. 1, Pompeo criticized Beijing’s advance over the region and said that Hong Kong is likely to “never again be able to vote.”
If elections are not held until September 2021, Pompeo said Hong Kong will become another “Communist-run city in China.”