WASHINGTON: The Trump administration on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials in Hong Kong and mainland China over their roles in cracking down on political dissent in the territory.
These are the first sanctions against officials from China and Hong Kong over suppression of pro-democracy protests and dissent in the territory. They are being imposed following an executive order President Trump signed last month seeking to punish China for its repression in Hong Kong.“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, said in a statement.
Lam was sanctioned because she is “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes,” the statement said. The sanctioned individuals include Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China’s State Council, and Chris Tang, commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force. The 11 people will have any property and assets in the US frozen. But it’s not clear whether any of the sanctioned officials will be affected financially.
Lam, who works closely with Chinese authorities, has scoffed at the prospect of being targeted by US sanctions. “I do not have any assets in the US nor do I long for moving to the US,” Lam told reporters on July 31, adding that she would “just laugh it off ” if the US sanctioned her.
Last week, 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.
The US has already sanctioned a top member of China’s ruling Communist Party and three other officials over the alleged human rights abuses against ethnic minority Muslims in the far west region of Xinjiang. Sanctioning the Chinese officials mark yet another blow by Trump against Beijing, as he escalates his confrontation with the world’s second-largest economy heading into the November election. A tough stance toward China has emerged as a key argument to voters for Trump, who’s trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in national polls.
Late Thursday, Trump signed a pair of executive orders barring US residents and companies from doing business with the Chinese-owned Tik-Tok and WeChat apps beginning 45 days from now, citing the national security risk of leaving Americans’ personal data exposed. While WeChat hasn’t been widely adopted in the US, the ban would have broad implications because it’s used by more than a billion people and is central to business and social communications with China.