HONG KONG: Beijing’s top representative office in Hong Kong said today that sanctions imposed by Washington on senior Hong Kong and Chinese officials were “clowning actions” that would not frighten or intimidate Chinese people.
The United States yesterday imposed sanctions on Luo Huining, the head of China’s Liaison Office, as well as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other current and former officials that Washington accuses of curtailing political freedoms in the global financial hub.
The move ratchets up already strained tensions between the United States and China, more than a month after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong that drew condemnation from Western governments and rights groups.
“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.”
Luo, the most senior mainland political official based in the Chinese-controlled territory, said US sanctions on him indicated he was doing what he “should be doing for my country and Hong Kong”, according to the statement.
As well as Luo and Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong police commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo; John Lee, Hong Kong’s secretary of security, and Teresa Cheng, the justice secretary. Xia Baolong, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, was also on the list.
The sanctions freeze any US assets of the officials and generally bar Americans from doing business with them.
The Treasury Department said Beijing’s imposition of “draconian” national security legislation had undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and set “the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China.”
Beijing imposed the law directly on Hong Kong just before midnight on June 30, circumventing the city’s legislature, and the city’s officials were not aware of the details of the law until it was implemented.
Police chief Tang told local media today that maintaining the security of the country and Hong Kong was his responsibility and foreign sanctions were meaningless to him.
The security legislation targets what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Some political analysts say the national security law coming directly from Beijing and bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature signals the start of a more authoritarian rule in the semi-autonomous city and a march toward mainland control.
Critics fear the legislation will crush wide-ranging freedoms in Hong Kong denied to people in mainland China that are seen as key to its success as a global financial centre.
Supporters of the law say it will bring stability after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests that plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades.