The US is set to impose sanctions against Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam citing the curtailment of freedoms in the city, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
Citing three sources familiar with the matter, the US outlet reported that US President Donald Trump is expected to take action as soon as Friday. Other Communist Party officials may also face sanctions under a White House executive order.
Washington has already imposed sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the crackdown on Uighur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang. The Hong Kong Autonomy Act would allow Trump to sanction Hong Kong officials too.
In June, Beijing enacted laws to prevent, stop and punish behaviour in Hong Kong that it deemed a threat to national security. The legislation was inserted into the city’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and inference with transportation and other infrastructure. The move – which gave police sweeping new powers – alarmed democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.
In a statement on Friday, the US consulate in Hong Kong criticised the controversial new law: “[It] was intended to silence democracy advocates and threaten those who engage in even the most routine forms of free speech… It would be an enormous tragedy if it crushed the very openness, diversity, and vitality that are at the heart of what makes Hong Kong so unique.”
Last month, Lam suspended September’s legislative elections for a year citing the Covid-19 outbreak. Democrats have said, however, that the administration acted out of concern that the pro-establishment camp would face a defeat at the polls.