HONG KONG (Reuters) – Beijing’s High Representative in Hong Kong said on Saturday that sanctions imposed by Washington against senior Hong Kong and Chinese officials were “clowning actions” that would not scare or intimidate the Chinese.
PHOTO: Newly-appointed Head of Hong Kong Liaison Office Luo Huining speaks to the media to mark his first day at the Hong Kong office, China, January 6, 2020. REITERS / Navesh Chitrakar
Separately, the Hong Kong government said the sanctions were “shameless and contemptuous”
“We will not be intimidated,” a government spokesman said.
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Luo Huining, the head of China’s liaison office, as well as Hong Kong leader Kari Lam and other current and former officials whom Washington accuses of restricting political freedoms at the global financial center.
The move is accelerating rapidly deteriorating Sino-US ties, more than a month after Beijing imposed extensive Hong Kong national security legislation that drew condemnation from Western governments and sent a chill across the city.
“The unscrupulous intentions of American politicians to support the anti-Chinese chaos in Hong Kong have been revealed, and their clowning actions are really ridiculous,” the Liaison Office said in a statement. “Threats and threats cannot scare the Chinese people.”
Luo, the continent’s top political official based in Chinese-controlled territory, said US sanctions against him showed he was doing what he “should do for my country and Hong Kong,” the statement said.
Luo oversees the implementation of the controversial security law, which allows continental security agents to be officially based in China’s freest city for the first time.
In addition to Luo and Lam, sanctions have targeted Hong Kong Police Commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor, Stephen Lo; John Lee, Secretary of Security in Hong Kong, and Teresa Cheng,
the Registrar. Xia was Banlong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Office in Beijing.
Police Chief Tang told local media on Saturday that maintaining the security of the country and Hong Kong is his responsibility, and foreign sanctions are meaningless.
The sanctions freeze US officials’ assets, ban them from doing business in the country and generally prevent Americans from doing business with them.
Beijing-backed leader Lam has previously told local media that he has no assets in the United States.
Hong Kong’s financial regulators moved to allay market fears on Saturday as banks in the city battled the effects of the sanctions. The market guard said he was not aware of any aspect of the sanctions that would affect how financial firms conduct their normal operations in the city.
LAW ON SECURITY OF THE DRAGON
Washington said the “draconian” security law had undermined its autonomy and laid “the foundation for censorship of all individuals or businesses that are considered unfriendly to China.”
The US sanctions come a week after Hong Kong postponed the September 6 parliamentary elections in the Chinese-run parliament for a year, citing a spike in coronavirus cases, prompting pro-democracy activists to question whether the pandemic was the real cause.
Washington said the election delay was the latest example of Beijing undermining “the democratic processes and freedoms that underpin Hong Kong’s prosperity.”
Security legislation targets what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers with life imprisonment.
Beijing and the Hong Kong government have said the law will not affect rights and freedoms and that security loopholes need to be closed. They said they would target only a small minority of “problem-makers”.
Fifteen people have been arrested so far under the law, including four aged 16-21, who were detained last week.
Beijing imposed the legislation directly on Hong Kong shortly before midnight on June 30, bypassing the city’s legislature and leaving city officials in the dark until the details of the law are enforced.
The law has further pushed China into a confrontation with the West, prompting countries, including Australia, Canada and Britain, to suspend extradition treaties with Hong Kong.
The law allows agents to take suspects across the border to trial in Communist Party-controlled courts, an issue that has raised concerns at home and abroad.
Some Hong Kong people have fled the city to set up home abroad, while immigration consultants have reported a surge in inquiries from people who want to leave.
Authorities in Hong Kong have issued arrest warrants for six pro-democracy activists who fled the city and were suspected of violating the new security.
Some political analysts say the security law, which comes directly from Beijing and bypasses Hong Kong law, signals the beginning of more authoritarian rule in the semi-autonomous city and a move toward control of the continent.
Critics of the law say it violates the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of often violent anti-government and anti-Chinese unrest.
Reports by Yani Chow, Alan John, Sume Chatterjee, Jesse Pang, Carol Mang and Scott Murdoch; Writing by Anne Marie Roantry; Edited by Michael Perry