The U.S. sanctioned 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials “whose actions have reduced Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy” Tuesday amid Beijing’s latest crackdown on the city’s political freedoms.
Sanctioned officials include Standing Committee members of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s rubber stamp legislature, and high-ranking members of the Hong Kong police force’s national security division, the State Department announced in a press release Tuesday.
The State Department also noted that foreign financial institutions involved in business dealings with the listed officials would be subject to sanctions as well.
The move reflects Washington’s “deep concern” about the further erosion of Hong Kong’s political autonomy after the NPC voted to overhaul the city’s election system last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday.
Today the United States listed 24 PRC and Hong Kong officials under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act in response to the PRC further undermining the autonomy, rights, and freedoms promised to people in Hong Kong. #StandWithHongKong https://t.co/jYvPxgFh54
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 17, 2021
Changes to Hong Kong’s election law would give a pro-Beijing committee power to select more Hong Kong lawmakers in order to ensure the city’s legislature was sufficiently loyal to mainland China, the South China Morning Post reported. (RELATED: US Condemns CCP Over ‘Unwarranted Oppression’ of Hong Kong)
“A stable, prosperous Hong Kong that respects human rights, freedoms, and political pluralism serves the interests of Hong Kong, mainland China, and the broader international community,” Blinken said. “The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong.”
The sanctions announcement was made during a visit by Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea. The two secretaries released a joint statement with their Japanese counterparts Tuesday criticizing China for its human rights violations and military buildup in the region.
Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday are scheduled to meet with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and the Chinese Communist Party’s chief diplomat Yang Jiechi in Alaska. But senior U.S. officials said the two sides are not expected to deliver a joint statement or make any major announcements, according to the Associated Press.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called the sanctions a “vicious attempt” by the U.S. to interfere in China’s domestic affairs during a press conference Wednesday.
“Hong Kong is part of China and its affairs are entirely China’s domestic affairs that allow no foreign interference,” he told reporters. “The U.S. should redress its mistakes immediately and stop meddling in China’s internal affairs including Hong Kong affairs in any means.”