In Rose Garden remarks, President Donald Trump says he’s signed an executive order that will hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against Hong Kong. He also said Democratic rival Joe Biden’s entire career has been a “gift” to China. (July 14)
WASHINGTON – The U.S. imposed a new round of sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam along with 10 other top officials over Beijing’s sweeping national security law aimed at curbing Hong Kong’s autonomy, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced Friday.
“Today, the Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on 11 individuals for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of the citizens of Hong Kong,” Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions come hours after the president issued two executive orders aimed at banning U.S. transactions with two Chinese-owned apps, TikTok and WeChat, in 45 days over national security concerns.
U.S.-China relations have deteriorated in recent months as Trump has moved to clamp down on Beijing over everything from a months-long trade war to accusing Chinese officials of allowing the coronavirus to spread into a pandemic.
The sanctions were imposed under an executive order Trump signed on July 14 aimed at punishing China for curtailing Hong Kong’s political freedoms. Beijing vowed retaliation last month after Trump ended Hong Kong’s preferential trade status and signed legislation that sanctions banks and officials who helped to impose the security law in Hong Kong.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called the new law an “Orwellian move,” said in a statement Friday that Lam and other officials, including Hong Kong’s police commissioner and several political secretaries, of “have crushed the Hong Kong people’s freedoms.
“The Chinese Communist Party has made clear that Hong Kong will never again enjoy the high degree of autonomy that Beijing itself promised to the Hong Kong people and the United Kingdom for 50 years,” Pompeo said.
Tensions between China and the Western democracies over China’s crackdown in Hong Kong, COVID-19 and claims regarding the South China Sea dominated discussions at the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations in Washington, D.C. (July 28)
China began imposing its national security law last month, dismissing international pressure to preserve Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status and its separate legal, political and economic framework, in place since 1997 when the United Kingdom turned over the administration of the city to China. That policy had enshrined freedoms of speech, press, assembly and an independent judiciary for residents of Hong Kong.
Beijing officials have argued the new law is necessary to preserve national security and protect Hong Kong’s prosperity, but critics say it is aimed at cracking down on pro-democracy protests that have roiled Hong Kong for months.
Along with Lam, the U.S. Treasury Department is also sanctioning police commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Chris Lo, who led the force until 2019. Hong Kong’s Security Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu and Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng were also sanctioned “for their roles in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals” under the new national security law.
The sanctions freeze any property or assets the officials have in the U.S. and ban them from traveling to the U.S., but Lam has previously dismissed concerns about sanctions.
“I have no assets in the U.S., and I don’t particularly like going to the U.S. If they won’t grant me a visa, then I will just not go there,” Lam said in an interview with Hong Kong Open TV broadcast last month.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, welcomed the sanctions, calling Lam “Beijing’s hatchet woman.”
“She worked with the Chinese Communist Party to kill Hong Kong’s autonomy and gut the rule of law,” he said in a statement. “These cowards betrayed the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong and deserve to pay a steep price.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, who co-sponsored the Hong Kong Autonomy Act signed into law by the president last month, tweeted he was glad the administration is holding “officials accountable for the brutal crackdown on those calling for democracy and freedom in #HongKong.”
Contributing: John Fritze
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