The United States has imposed financial sanctions and a travel ban on 14 Chinese officials over their alleged role in Beijing’s disqualification of elected opposition legislators in Hong Kong last month.
The move targeted the vice chairpersons of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC), the top decision-making body of the Chinese legislature.
The sanctions announced by Washington prohibit the 14 individuals and their immediate members from traveling to the United States. Any assets the officials might have within the United States will be blocked and US individuals and companies will be banned from dealing with them.
The action is widely seen as part of an effort by outgoing President Donald Trump to cement his tough-on-China legacy and also box president-elect Joe Biden, before he takes office on Jan. 20, into hardline positions on Beijing at a time of bipartisan anti-China sentiment in Congress.
China has said it will retaliate, with foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying telling a news briefing on Tuesday that Beijing would take “firm counter-measures against the malicious actions by the US to safeguard our sovereignty, security and developmental rights.”
She also urged the United States to withdraw the decision.
The Trump administration earlier slapped sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the Asian financial hub’s current and former police chiefs and other top officials in August for what it said was their role in curtailing freedoms in a crackdown on the territory’s pro-democracy movement.
“Beijing’s unrelenting assault against Hong Kong’s democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government last month expelled four opposition members from its legislature after China’s parliament gave city authorities new powers to curb dissent. The move triggered mass resignations by pro-democracy opposition lawmakers in the former British colony.
Pompeo said the NPCSC has effectively “neutered” the ability of people in Hong Kong to choose their elected representatives.
“These actions demonstrate once again Beijing’s complete disregard for its international commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-registered treaty.”
Rita Osakwe/Agency Reports