China on Saturday slammed the United States 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. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government described the sanctions as “shameless and despicable,” adding that it fully supported “countermeasures.”
In the toughest U.S. action on Hong Kong since China imposed a sweeping new security law on the territory, Washington on Friday sanctioned 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 criticized 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.
It accused the sanctioned individuals of being “directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes”.
The move criminalizes any U.S. 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.”
Hong Kong’s commerce secretary Edward Yau warned that the “savage and unreasonable” sanctions could have blowback for American businesses in Hong Kong.
“If the U.S. unilaterally carries out this kind of unreasonable action, it will in the end affect U.S. companies,” he told reporters.
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.
Last week, four students were arrested in Hong Kong in the first police operation to enforce the new law, officials said. Arrests have been made previously under the new law for banners and slogans displayed at protests.
Since the law was imposed, authorities have postponed elections, citing the coronavirus pandemic, issued arrest warrants for six exiled pro-democracy activists and launched a crackdown on other activists.
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.
“We will not stand by while the people of Hong Kong suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or its enablers,” Pompeo tweeted.
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