Donald Trump’s administration has imposed sanctions on 14 top Chinese officials over allegations they undermined democracy in Hong Kong.
Officials targeted by sanctions in Monday’s sweep are all high-ranking members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the Chinese body that oversees the national legislature and was responsible for adoption and implementation. of the new national security law which paved the way for a crackdown in Hong Kong during the summer.
“Beijing’s relentless assault on Hong Kong’s democratic processes has emptied its Legislative Council, making the body a buffer without significant opposition,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday in a statement announcing the measures.
Hong Kong authorities have intensified their crackdown on opposition politicians and supporters of the 2019 anti-government protests since Beijing introduced a new national security law in the city in June, targeting terrorism, subversion, collusion and foreign interference.
Last week a trio of Hong Kong activists was sentenced to prison terms for pro-democracy protests over the summer.
Mr Pompeo said the NPCSC had “effectively neutralized the ability of the people of Hong Kong to choose their elected representatives,” accusing Beijing of repeatedly using the National Security Act to “quell dissent and arrest those who protest against the oppressive policies of Beijing ”.
“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday before the official sanctions announcement. “China urges the US side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and stop going further down the wrong track.”
Under the Trump administration, relations between the United States and China have deteriorated as the two clash over trade, allegations of espionage and the coronavirus, among other issues.
US national security and defense strategies point to China as the country’s most significant threat to its global position.
Joe Biden, US President-elect, has also pledged a hard line against China and has previously described Chinese President Xi Jinping as “a thug.” The precise details of his approach remain unclear, however, and his team may be looking for potential areas to boost cooperation, including on climate change.
The United States has already imposed a series of sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials due to the new security law in August. This included targeting Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong leader, who said in a television interview last month that she was forced to receive her salary in “heaps of money” because she lost her job. ‘access to the banking system due to the measures.
The latest sanctions will subject the 14 people to an asset freeze and visa restrictions that will also apply to immediate family members.
While China is likely to be furious at what it sees as US interference in its internal affairs, Bonnie Glaser, China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said there would be nonetheless a relief among business interests at the relatively small and personalized level. scope of actions.
The Trump administration has so far refused to impose sanctions on financial institutions that are aimed at cutting them off from the U.S. financial system, she noted.
“The banking system is probably relieved by this approach,” she said.