US to sanction Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, others amid political upheaval

The Trump administration said Friday it will sanction Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other Hong Kong and Chinese leaders for eliminating political autonomy in the territory.

The sanctions come less than a month after President Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act to penalize authorities responsible for a broad free speech crackdown.

“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 in a statement.

Lam was “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The financial hub’s police commissioner Chris Tang and four other current or former Hong Kong leaders are targeted, as are five officials from mainland China, including Luo Huining, director of the Hong Kong Liaison Office, and Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.

Lam in particular is reviled by democracy activists and was the target of mass protests last year over a never-enacted extradition law that would send residents to mainland China. Lam reportedly said she would “laugh it off” if the US sanctioned her.

“I do not have any assets in the United States nor do I long for moving to the United States,” Lam said last week.

Hong Kong authorities on July 1 made 300 arrests in initial enforcement of a new Chinese national security law that outlaws “any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government.”

Pro-democracy activists protesting in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy activists protesting in Hong Kong.Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

The law is widely seen as ending Hong Kong’s political autonomy, which was negotiated by the British before a handover of the territory in 1997. Trump last month signed an executive order ending Hong Kong’s special status under a range of US business and visa policies.

The sanctions follow a dramatic escalation of actions by Trump against China.

Trump frequently calls COVID-19 the “China virus” and blasts the authoritarian nation for leaving the world unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic by concealing early data about the outbreak and not restricting outbound travel from Wuhan. Since March COVID-19 has sickened nearly 5 million Americans, killed 160,000 and left tens of millions more at least temporarily unemployed.

Trump signed executive orders on Thursday that ban US companies from working with the Chinese companies that own TikTok and WeChat, effective in 45 days. The orders formalize a September deadline for the popular TikTok platform to be sold to a US firm.

Trump also signed in June a bill authorizing sanctions against Chinese officials for human rights abuses against the country’s Muslim Uyghur minority. Under that law, four Chinese officials were hit with sanctions last month.


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