China’s ties with U.S. plunge further over Hong Kong sanctions

The temperature rises: Protesters demonstrating against U.S. outside its consulate in Hong Kong on Saturday.

The temperature rises: Protesters demonstrating against U.S. outside its consulate in Hong Kong on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

China on Saturday slammed the U.S. for imposing “barbarous” sanctions in response to Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, capping a dramatic week of deteriorating relations between the world’s two biggest economies.

In the toughest U.S. action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law on the territory, Washington on Friday imposed sanctions on a group of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — including the city’s leader Carrie Lam.

The move came after President Donald Trump’s administration forced Chinese Internet giants TikTok and WeChat to end all operations in the U.S., in a twin diplomatic-commercial offensive set to grow ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

China on Saturday criticised the sanctions as “barbarous and rude”.

“The ill intentions of U.S. 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 U.S. assets of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials, including Luo Huining — the head of the Liaison Office.

‘Politics of suppression’

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 U.S. financial transactions with the sanctioned officials.

In a short statement, Mr. 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”. “We will fully support the Central government to adopt countermeasures,” it said in a statement.

The city’s commerce secretary Edward Yau warned that the “savage and unreasonable” sanctions could have blowback for American businesses in Hong Kong.

China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the sanctions list “rudely tramples on international law” and “will be nailed to the historic pillar of shame forever.”

Facebook barred Ms. Lam and the 10 other sanctioned officials from advertising on the platform, with a spokesperson saying on Saturday that it had “a legal obligation to take action.”

Tensions spike

Beijing’s security law was imposed in late June, following last year’s huge pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, sending a political chill through the semi-autonomous city.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the security law violated promises made by China ahead of Hong Kong’s 1997 handover that the city could keep key freedoms and autonomy for 50 years.

“Today’s actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable,” said Mr. Pompeo in a statement.

The U.S. measures come three months ahead of the November election in which Mr. Trump, who is behind his rival Joe Biden, is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2020 11:56:44 PM |

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