HONG KONG: China has slammed the United States for imposing sanctions in response to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong as relations deteriorate between the world’s two biggest economies.
The United States sanctioned a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials including the city’s leader Carrie Lam, in the toughest action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law.
The move came after President Donald Trump’s administration forced Chinese internet giants TikTok and WeChat to end all operations in the US.
“The ill intentions of US politicians to support people who are anti-China and messing up Hong Kong have been clearly revealed,” Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement.
The Treasury Department announced it was freezing the US assets of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and ten other senior officials, including Luo Huining, the head of the Liaison Office.
It accused the sanctioned individuals of being “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes”.
The move criminalises any US financial transactions with the sanctioned officials. In a short statement, Luo said he welcomed the blacklisting. “I have done what I should do for the country and for Hong Kong,” he said. “I don’t have a dime’s worth in foreign assets.”
The Hong Kong government described the sanctions as “shameless and despicable” and said support China to adopt countermeasures.
The city’s commerce secretary Edward Yau warned that the sanctions could have blowback for American businesses in Hong Kong. “If the US unilaterally carries out this kind of unreasonable action, it will in the end affect US companies,” he told reporters.
Beijing’s security law was imposed in late June following last year’s huge pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Since then authorities have postponed elections and issued arrest warrants for six exiled pro-democracy activists and launched a crackdown on other activists.
The US measures come three months ahead of the November election in which Trump is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message as public disapproval has grown for his handling of the pandemic.
Trump has shifted from his previous focus on striking a trade deal with China to blaming the country for the coronavirus crisis.