The United States has imposed sanctions on Hong Kong’s pro-China government leader and other Hong Kong officials for allegedly suppressing freedom in the former British colony.
The Treasury Department announced the sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other government leaders on Friday, the latest in a series of moves the Trump administration has taken against China amid rising tensions over the coronavirus and trade disputes.
The sanctions are aimed at penalizing Beijing for curtailing anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong. There was no immediate response from Hong Kong or Beijing.
Hong Kong citizens have enjoyed civil liberties that don’t exist in mainland China since Britain relinquished control of the territory to China in 1997.
Earlier this year, however, China imposed a new national security law that undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, drawing criticism from pro-democracy activists and Western countries.
“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 living in Hong Kong,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.
In addition to Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong’s current and former police chiefs and eight other officials for orchestrating a campaign to curtail political liberties in the territory.
The penalties also freeze any U.S. assets the Hong Kong officials hold and generally prohibits Americans from conducting business with them.
Because of a surge in coronavirus cases, Lam recently announced a one-year delay to a legislative election in which pro-democracy activists hoped to win a majority of the seats. The U.S. denounced the postponement, declaring it was another move by China to undermine democracy in Hong Kong.