ADDS DETAILS THROUGHOUT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The US imposed sanctions Friday on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other current and former officials for allegedly "undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy".
The designations are being made under an executive order US President Donald Trump signed on July 14 that allows for sanctions to be implemented on individuals the administration assesses to be undermining Hong Kong's democracy.
"The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The department accused Lam of being "directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes," and said she is being blacklisted for being involved in the development and implementation of a controversial national security law that critics say is intended to stifle free expression in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
Lam brushed aside the prospect of being blacklisted last month in a television interview, denying she has any assets subject to US jurisdiction.
In addition to Lam, the US has designated Hong Kong Police Force Commissioner Chris Tang, former commissioner Stephen Lo, Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, and Teresa Cheng, the Hong Kong justice secretary for sanctions.
Luo Huining, China's top official in Hong Kong, is also sanctioned.
The actions come about one month after China implemented its national security law in the semi-autonomous region. It criminalizes anti-China sentiments in the region, which has continued to serve as a vibrant economic hub after the UK handed it over to Beijing in 1997 under a vow that it would enjoy a "high level of autonomy" for 50 years.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the national security law "is in fact a tool of CCP repression," referring to the Chinese Communist Party, which he said "has made clear that Hong Kong will never again enjoy the high degree of autonomy that Beijing itself promised."
"President Trump has made clear that the United States will therefore treat Hong Kong as 'one country, one system,' and take action against individuals who have crushed the Hong Kong people’s freedoms," the top diplomat said in a statement.
The Hong Kong government under Lam moved last week to postpone for one year legislative elections in which the opposition had hoped to seize on discontent.
The chief executive cited in particular the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but opposition leaders quickly blasted the decision as a thinly-veiled effort to subvert democracy.
"Clearly it is the largest election fraud in #HK’s history. But #Beijing cannot overturn the strong mandate of 610,000 #Hongkongers who had cast their ballots the city's first-ever #hkprimaries early this month," opposition leader Joshua Wong wrote on Twitter shortly after the announcement.
"Our voice is clear and loud to the world, we stand to defend our freedom and rights that stipulated in the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law," he added.
One day prior to delaying the polls 12 opposition politicians were barred by Lam's government from participation.