Hong Kong — The United States recently imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 officials from the territory and China for their role in its national security law, which was passed in June.
The announcement on Friday (Aug 7) condemned the officials whose “actions or policies … threaten the peace, security, stability or autonomy of Hong Kong”.
According to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin: “The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong.”
Ms Lam is said to have implemented Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes, according to a statement from the US Treasury. “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.”
As tensions between the US and China continue to build, the US also moved to ban transactions between the US and the owners of the popular online platforms TikTok and WeChat, who are Chinese.
Along with Ms Lam, among others sanctioned by the US is Mr Chris Tang Ping-keung, Hong Kong’s Police Commissioner, “for coercing, arresting, detaining or imprisoning individuals under the authority of the National Security Law”. Included in the list from mainland China are Beijing’s top envoy to Hong Kong, Mr Luo Huining; the director and deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Mr Xia Baolong and Mr Zhang Xiaoming; and the inaugural director of Beijing’s agency that oversees national security issues in Hong Kong, Mr Zheng Yanxiong.
The 11 individuals sanctioned will have all property in the US seized and their financial assets frozen.
Ms Lam had said in July that “I do not have any assets in the United States nor do I long for moving to the United States”. She has also said repeatedly that the US sanctions do not intimidate her.
According to a BBC report, the impact on the Hong Kong and Chinese officials may be more symbolic in nature, especially if they have no property in the US and have no plans to travel there.
“But this move is highly symbolic, as it’s Washington’s latest step condemning Beijing’s drive to curtail freedoms and democracy in Hong Kong. The former British colony has become a major point of contention between the US and China.
“What does Washington get out of this? By being tough on Beijing, the Trump administration is trying to rally voters, while the China hawks in the White House are aiming to correct the course of a bilateral relationship from which they believe China has gained more than America.”
However, there are other ways that the officials will be sanctioned. Facebook announced on Aug 8 that it had “taken steps to prevent the use of payments services” for the people on the US list, which means that Ms Lam and the others are now prohibited from buying advertising on Facebook or any of its other platforms.
The processing of credit cards may also become a problem for the officials, especially for Visa or Mastercard. A representative of Mastercard told the New York Times that the sanctions are being reviewed to “understand the impact it may have on any financial institution licensed to access”.
However, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority issued a public letter to Ms Lam saying that the sanctions would have no legal standing in Hong Kong. /TISG