Washington has further hardened its confrontation with Beijing. The United States has passed sanctions against eleven Hong Kong leaders, including chief executive Carrie Lam, alongside sweeping measures against China’s digital gems TikTok and WeChat.
The US government announced on Friday that they will freeze the assets of Carrie Lam, Secretaries for Security and Justice and the Chief of Police, who are accused of seeking to restrict the autonomy of the territory and “freedom of expression or assembly” of its inhabitants.
“The United States supports the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and our authorities to target those who undermine its autonomy,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
A senior Hong Kong official, Commerce Secretary Edward Yau, called the measures “savage, disproportionate and unreasonable.”
“If the United States unilaterally takes this kind of unreasonable action, it will end up affecting American businesses,” he warned.
A little later, the representative office of the Chinese government in Hong Kong also condemned the American sanctions, deeming them “barbaric and crude”.
“The nefarious intentions of American politicians to support people who are anti-Chinese and to create disorder in Hong Kong have come to light,” the office said in a statement.
The US sanctions are a response to China’s adoption in June of a national security law in the former British colony which, according to its critics, is leading to a decline in freedoms unprecedented since Hong Kong’s handover to China by the United Kingdom in 1997.
According to Beijing, the law makes it possible to ensure stability, to put an end to the violence that marked the protest movement of 2019 in Hong Kong, as well as to suppress the pro-independence current there.
But for Western countries, also worried about the postponement of the elections in Hong Kong under the pretext of a pandemic, the text aims to muzzle the Hong Kong opposition after the monster demonstrations last year, which denounced the influence of Beijing in the territory.