President Donald Trump took his strongest action yet against Chinese government forces looking to stifle freedom in Hong Kong, instituting dedicated sanctions against Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, and at least ten other officials over their decision to follow China’s lead and press strict, anti-free speech controls on Hong Kong citizens.
The Chinese government, last month, passed a series of laws “reclaiming” Hong Kong and implementing a series of oppressive restrictions designed to quell protests and subject Hong Kong citizens, long considered freer than their Chinese counterparts, to draconian Chinese rules.
The “sweeping national security law,” CNBC says, bans literature “critical of the Chinese government” and allows China to conduct surveillance and arrests within the island nation, likely in violation of an agreement inked with the island city-state’s former controlling government, the United Kingdom, when the UK transfered control over Hong Kong to China in the 1990s.
Lam has also postponed the island’s parlimentary elections, set to take place in September, indefinitely.
The Treasury Department announced the sanctions Friday, targeting Lam by name for “implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.”
“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 Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.
“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has described the new law as an ‘Orwellian move’ and an assault ‘on the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,'” CNBC added.
“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 added. “President Trump has made clear that the United States will therefore treat Hong Kong as ‘one country, one system,’ and take action against individuals who have crushed the Hong Kong people’s freedoms.”
The sanctions prevent Lam and ten others – including the head of Hong Kong’s police force – from accessing foreign accounts, “property and interests in property” that are located in the United States or its territories.
Lam told international media that she is not bothered by the crackdown.
“I have no assets in the U.S., and I don’t particularly like going to the U.S.,” she said. “If they won’t grant me a visa, then I will just not go there.”
China called the measures “clowning actions.”
“The unscrupulous intentions of the U.S. politicians to support the anti-China chaos in Hong Kong have been revealed, and their clowning actions are really ridiculous,” the government’s official communication office said in its own statement. “Intimidation and threats cannot frighten the Chinese people.”
Economic sanctions, though, could, and the Trump administration is already pursuing additional measures, including sanctions on Chinese companies that trade in American markets and appear on the NASDAQ and the New York Stock Exchange.
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