U.S. sanctions leaders of China’s Hong Kong crackdown

Photojournalists, wearing helmets for protection during protests, photograph then-police commissioner Stephen Lo at a news conference in Hong Kong in 2019. (© Vincent Yu/AP Images)
Photojournalists, wearing helmets for protection during protests, photograph then-police commissioner Stephen Lo at a news conference in Hong Kong in 2019. (© Vincent Yu/AP Images)

The United States has imposed sanctions against Chinese Communist Party officials for their role in the crackdown on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued sanctions August 7 that target Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials, including several who helped develop or implement the Hong Kong National Security Law passed by China’s top legislature on June 30.

“This law, purportedly enacted to ‘safeguard’ the security of Hong Kong, is in fact a tool of CCP repression,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in an August 7 statement.

The People’s Republic of China broke its promise to respect Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy” and freedoms, violating its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, a U.N.-registered treaty. Leaders from more than 20 countries came together to call China’s latest action a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms.”

Chinese authorities have arrested democracy advocates, cracked down on reporters, postponed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections, and disqualified at least a dozen election candidates.

The new U.S. sanctions, authorized under President Trump’s July 14 executive order that declared a national emergency related to Hong Kong, target those responsible for suppressing freedom and democratic processes in Hong Kong and undermining the rule of law, the U.S. Treasury Department says.

Lam helped develop and implement the Hong Kong National Security Law. In 2019 she pushed to allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China, sparking widespread protests. U.S. officials say the new law has allowed CCP security forces to operate with impunity in Hong Kong and undermine individual freedoms.

Sanctions also target Hong Kong Police Commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo, who led a crackdown that resulted in the arrests of more than 4,000 protesters and injured 1,600, Treasury says.

Other sanctioned leaders include security officials involved in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals under the National Security Law, or otherwise working to implement the law.

The new restrictions freeze the subjects’ assets and prevent them from accessing the U.S. financial system or doing business with U.S. citizens.

“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said August 7.