Washington has imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other top officials, prompting a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
Hong Kong's leader and China's top representative in the city have taken pot shots at the US after the Trump administration sanctioned them and nine other officials for allegedly cracking down on freedom and undermining the local autonomy of the former British colony.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam took to Facebook on Saturday to say that the US got her address wrong, listing the official address of her chief deputy instead. She noted that she was the deputy when she applied for her US visa in 2016.
“By the way, my entry visa to the US is valid until 2026. Since I have no desire to visit this country, it looks like I can take the initiative to cancel it," Lam said.
The sanctions, announced on Friday by the US Treasury Department, block all property or other assets that the individuals have within US jurisdiction.
Beijing's top representative office in Hong Kong said the sanctions were "clowning actions" that would not frighten or intimidate Chinese people.
"The unscrupulous intentions of the US politicians to support the anti-China chaos in Hong Kong have been revealed, and their clowning actions are really ridiculous," the Liaison Office said in a statement. "Intimidation and threats cannot frighten the Chinese people."
I welcome the US government’s decision to sanction 11 Chinese and HK officials, who are responsible for the human rights violation in HK. I hope more countries can work together and hold these tyrannical leaders to account. Democracy and autonomy NOW!#HongKong#Sanctions— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 😷 (@nathanlawkc) August 7, 2020
'Unreasonable and barbarous'
Luo Huining, the director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said being included on the list shows that he has done what he should for the city and his country.
“I don’t have a penny of assets abroad. Isn’t it in vain to impose ‘sanctions’? Of course, I can also send $100 to Mr Trump for freezing,” he said in a statement on the office’s website.
Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau, who wasn't sanctioned, called the sanctions “unreasonable and barbarous” and said they would harm US interests in the city, an Asian financial and shipping hub.
Hong Kong has long enjoyed civil liberties not seen in mainland China because it is governed under a so-called “one country, two systems” principle in place since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
However, Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong at the end of June, following months of anti-government protests last year.
The new law prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or what it sees as foreign intervention in Hong Kong's internal affairs. Police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
Critics see the law as Beijing’s boldest move yet to erase the divide between Hong Kong’s Western-style system and the mainland’s authoritarian way of governing.
“The recent imposition of draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong has not only undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, it has also infringed on the rights of people in Hong Kong,” the treasury department said.
The Hong Kong government accused the US of using Hong Kong as a pawn to create trouble in the China-US relationship, calling the sanctions “blatant and barbaric interference” in China’s internal affairs.
It said that while national security is under the purview of the central government in any country, the new law authorises local authorities in Hong Kong to be its main enforcer and specifies that human rights will be protected.
“These legal provisions, coupled with the rule of law and an independent judiciary in Hong Kong, are clearly ignored by relevant US officials who have chosen to make unsubstantiated and sweeping comments to serve their own interest," a government statement said.
“We will not be intimidated,” it said.