“Shameless and despicable” US sanctions imposed on Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other Hong Kong and Chinese officials

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Making sense of the US sanctions placed on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and other HK and Mainland Chinese officials.

Photo courtesy of Wpcpey / CC BY 4.0.

The United States Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other Hong Kong and Chinese officials for infringing on the city’s autonomy and freedoms.

The measure comes a month after Beijing enacted the controversial national security law for Hong Kong to crack down on dissidents with vaguely outlined and far-reaching offences: secession, subversion, terrorism, and colluding with foreign powers. In response, President Trump signed the Executive Order, declaring the US would see Hong Kong as another Chinese city and eliminate the differential treatments it has enjoyed. 

A statement from the Treasury said Mrs Lam was punished because she was “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.” 

“In 2019, Lam pushed for an update to Hong Kong’s extradition arrangements to allow for extradition to the mainland, setting off a series of massive opposition demonstrations in Hong Kong,” the statement added. 

Among the individuals penalised are the current and former commissioners of Hong Kong Police Force, Chris Tang and Stephen Lo, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu. All their property and financial assets in the US will be blocked. Facebook has also barred these officials from advertising on the social media platform as a result of the sanctions.

“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,” tweeted US Secretary Mike Pompeo. 

The Hong Kong Government lashed back by calling the move “shameless and despicable” and “blatant and barbaric interference in the internal affairs of China.” It condemned the release of personal information of the officials as a “breach of privacy and personal safety” and said it would support China to take counter-measures. 

The spokesman said Mrs Lam would not be “intimidated.”

“Speaking on behalf of her senior colleagues who are being targeted, the Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam said that we are discharging an honourable duty to safeguard national security, protecting the life and interests of not only the 7.5 million Hong Kong people but also the 1.4 billion Mainlanders.” 

Lam responded on a Facebook post on Saturday, saying her address disclosed by the Treasury was wrong, and it might be because she provided her precious address to apply for her visa in 2016. She suspected her information for visa application was handed over to the Treasury and questioned whether that violated protection of human rights. 

“My US visa will expire in 2026. As I have no desire to visit the country, it seems that I can cancel it by myself,” she wrote. 

A Chinese official targeted by the administration, Luo Huinin, the director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office, said the US efforts would be in vain because he had no possessions in its territory. He sarcastically added he could send 100 dollars to President Trump to have something to freeze. 

Edward Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, said he believed the measures would come back to the US and worsen its relations with Hong Kong. 

Disputes between the US and China over trade, the blame for coronavirus pandemic, and Beijing’s imposition of the security law on Hong Kong have paved the way for more assertive diplomatic policies. In late-July, the US ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, and in prompt response, China forced the US consulate in Chengdu to close down. The recent ban on Tik Tok by Trump’s administration has also escalated tensions.

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