The US sanctions Hong Kong officials for undermining city’s autonomy

On Friday last week, the US government imposed sanctions on 11 individuals for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and violating its citizens’ rights. The move is related to the national security law China passed recently.

The US Department of the Treasury listed 11 individuals, among which are Hong Kong administration officials as well as Beijing-appointed officials that oversee the semi-autonomous city’s affairs. The list includes Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin stated:

Steven T. Mnuchin, US Department of the Treasury

Steven T. Mnuchin

The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy.

The sanctions mandate that all property or entities at least 50% owned by the 11 officials and are in the US will be blocked and all transactions with the US with these individuals is prohibited.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) issued a statement on the next day regarding the sanctions imposed by the US.

The SFC stated:

The SFC is monitoring closely the impact that the sanctions may have on the operation of intermediaries, the interests of investors and financial stability and orderliness of the markets in Hong Kong.

In considering the implications of the sanctions, intermediaries are expected to carefully assess any legal, business and commercial risks that they may be exposed to.

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Many foreign banks reportedly started to preemptively refuse accounts of senior Hong Kong officials as early as the end of July. Local politician Bernard Chan, part of the cabinet that Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam said US banked closed his accounts.

Closing of accounts is the first step of banks’ compliance with the US sanctions. They would also have to check for any assets held or controlled where the politically exposed person (PEP) have at least 50% ownership. Even though non-US entities have no obligation to comply with the US directive, they could be named a violator.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government called the sanctions “shameless and despicable” in a strongly worded response.

A government spokesman spokesman said:

Imposed under the so-called Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals List of the US Department of the Treasury, the latest US Government measure represents blatant and barbaric interference in the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), using Hong Kong as a pawn in its ploy to create troubles in China-US relationship, out of self-serving interests of some US politicians,

Taking advantage of anti-government riots in Hong Kong since June last year, the US Congress and the White House have passed successive laws and pronounced executive order targeting the HKSAR under the pretext of human rights, democracy and autonomy.  It should be obvious to and resented by many people, locally and around the world, that the US acts are displaying double standards and hypocrisy, let alone blatantly breaching international laws and basic norms governing international relations.

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