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 get China to respond to what it calls the erosion of the rule of law in the former British colony.
The sanctions, released Friday by the U.S. Treasury Department, are aimed at people at China’s Hong Kong liaison office, used by Beijing to orchestrate its policies in Chinese territory.
The seven people who were 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 deputy directors of the liaison office. , according to online data.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Chinese officials over the past year have done so “systematically.” undermined ”Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, delayed elections, disqualified elected legislators from office and arrested thousands for disagreeing with government policies.
“In the face of Beijing’s decisions over the past year that have stifled the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong, we are taking action. Today we send a clear message that the United States is firmly with the Hong Kongers,” Blinken said in a statement. .
The Treasury Department referred to a separate updated business advice issued jointly with the Departments of State, Commerce and Homeland Security that highlighted U.S. government concerns about the effect of Hong Kong’s national security laws. Kong on international companies.
Critics say Beijing enacted the law last year to facilitate repression of pro-democracy activists and the free press.
The adviser said companies face risks associated with unsecured electronic surveillance and the surrender of corporate and customer data to authorities, adding that people and businesses should be aware of the possible consequences of interact with sanctioned persons or entities.
The actions were announced just over a year after former President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the territory. .
The United States has already done so sanctions imposed to other high-ranking officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and senior police officers, for their role in reducing political freedoms in the territory.
Hong Kong officials previously described these U.S. sanctions as “hostile acts of hegemony.”
Hong Kong business advice in the US is like the UK’s half-yearly reports: there’s nothing you don’t know or haven’t heard, but this is the official U.S. version of what happened in Hong Kong after the NSL . A sign for American companies: think twice.https://t.co/FZ138sH8bY pic.twitter.com/36vIIcSPIm
– Kris Cheng (risky) July 16, 2021
Earlier Friday, Xia Baolong, director of the Chinese Affairs Office in Hong Kong and Macao, was quoted by the Hong Kong Free Press as saying that the sanctions “will only evoke our anger.”
“You would just lift a rock and drop it hard on your own 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 on 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 to how it would treat Hong Kong since it returned to Chinese control in 1997.
China had promised universal suffrage as Hong Kong’s ultimate goal in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which also states that the city has broad autonomy from Beijing.
Since China enacted national security law to criminalize what it considers subversion, secessionism, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces, most pro-democracy activists and politicians have been caught or arrested for other reasons.
The Apple Daily, Hong Kong’s most vocal newspaper of democracy, was forced to end a 26-year period in June amid the crackdown that froze the company’s funds.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing before the actions were formally announced that the US should stop interfering in Hong Kong and that China would give a ” determined and strong response “.
A source told Reuters news agency on 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. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is preparing a visit to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia next week. The State Department’s announcement of his trip made no mention of any stops in China, which had been planned in foreign policy circles and had been reported in some media.
A senior State Department official told reporters Friday that Washington was still in talks with Beijing over whether Sherman would visit China.
On Tuesday, the U.S. government also reinforced warnings to companies about the growing risks of having supply chain links and investments in the Xinjiang region of China, citing forced labor and human rights abuses that Beijing denied.
“We hope that further US action related to Hong Kong will continue to be objective and that Washington will avoid political decisions that are detrimental to the people of Hong Kong,” said Anna Ashton, vice president of government affairs for the US-China Business Council . advice issued Friday.
The South China Morning Post also said the latest decision was received with a “collective scolding” from analysts.
The Hong Kong-based news publication quoted former U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong Richard Boucher as saying, “Whenever there is news that China is putting more pressure on Hong Kong, there is a pressure proportional to the American side to do something, but things are over. “
It was also reported that other analysts said the measure is more symbolic, as the United States is “trapped between pressure to respond to the downturn in Beijing and a business community still seeking market access.”