US targets Chinese, Hong Kong officials for undermining city’s autonomy

The Biden administration has accused twenty Chinese and Hong Kong officials undermine the territory’s autonomy, signaling that it would maintain its firm stance on Beijing before its first high-level meeting with the rival power.

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, said the United States had identified 24 officials whose actions had “reduced Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy” after China adopted a electoral law for the city last week.

The move subjects officials to sanctions under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act introduced by the previous US administration.

Blinken warned that any financial institution that did important business with officials would also face penalties. The move increases the number of civil servants Ten honored by the Trump administration.

This decision illustrates President Joe Biden’s commitment to maintain the tough American approach to China adopted by Donald Trump. In his first call Along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden has made it clear that he will hold Beijing responsible for unfair economic practices and human rights violations.

The electoral law passed by the National People’s Congress, the country’s official parliament, dilutes the proportion of democratically elected lawmakers in Hong Kong and subjects all electoral candidates to a strict scrutiny process. The move is Beijing’s latest attempt to crack down on the pro-democracy movement in the Asian financial hub after months of sometimes violent protests in 2019.

“The move further undermines the high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong residents and denies Hong Kongers a voice in their own governance, a move the UK has said is in violation of the Sino-UK joint statement.” , said Blinken.

The US and UK have said the law undermines China’s promise of autonomy for the former British colony that was supposed to be guaranteed for 50 years after the 1997 transfer to Beijing under the “one country” model. , two systems ”.

Beijing passed security and election laws as part of a campaign to crush the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong © Bloomberg

The State Department provided Congress with the two dozen names as part of a requirement under the law.

The list includes 14 vice-chairs of the AFN Standing Committee, a group of senior officials who enacted the law, and Hong Kong police officials. The United States has already imposed sanctions on many of them under separate directives.

“The United States is united with our allies and partners to defend the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong, and we will respond when the PRC fails to meet its obligations,” Blinken added.

Blinken and Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, are scheduled Thursday to meet in Alaska Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, and Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister.

Senior U.S. officials said Tuesday that Blinken and Sullivan will make it clear that Washington will continue to criticize China’s actions in Hong Kong, in addition to its crackdown on Uyghurs in Xinjiang and increasingly aggressive military activity near Taiwan.

Bonnie Glaser, an expert on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said the move was “further proof” of Biden’s focus on human rights and values democratic.

“Ahead of the meeting with senior Chinese officials in Anchorage, Biden officials are sending strong signals to China about US interests and its willingness to protect them,” Glaser said.

The EU is also considering imposing sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights violations and actions in Hong Kong.

China warned against retaliation over the electoral law and urged countries to stop interfering in its internal affairs.

US sanctions have posed a dilemma for foreign financial services firms in Hong Kong, with Beijing signaling its hostility to compliance.

Last year, China passed a draconian national security law in Hong Kong that criminalized “conspiring” with a foreign country to impose sanctions on Hong Kong. Li Zhanshu, chairman of the AFN Standing Committee, said last week that he was improving his “legal toolbox” to deal with US sanctions.

Nicholas Turner of the law firm Steptoe, which advises on compliance issues, said that while banks had already severed ties with those who had already been sanctioned in Hong Kong, “that just adds a layer of risk. potential ”.

To follow Demetri Sevastopulo and Primrose Riordan on Twitter

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