US social media giant Facebook has barred Chief Executive Carrie Lam and ten other local officials from using advertising tools on the platform after the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions against senior figures.

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File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that Washington was acting because Beijing had violated its promise of autonomy for the city. It comes after a year of pro-democracy protests and the imposition of a controversial national security law, which activists say stifles dissent.

The action criminalises any US financial transactions with sanctioned officials and blocks their assets in the US.

Facebook is among many US companies that may be affected. A spokesperson told HKFP that they were obliged to restrict the accounts of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs): “Facebook has a legal obligation to take action. In this case, we have taken steps to prevent the use of payments services,” a spokesperson for the platform told HKFP on Saturday.

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Carrie Lam, Eric Chan, John Lee, Teresa Cheng, Zhang Xiaoming, Zheng Yanxiong, Stephen Lo, Luo Huining, Chris Tang, Erick Tsang and Xia Baolong.

It terms state that users listed on the SDN list cannot “engage in commercial activities on Facebook (such as advertising or payments) or operate a Platform application or website. You will not use Facebook if you are prohibited from receiving products, services, or software originating from the United States.”

Other US-based firms – such as Mastercard – would also be obliged to refer to the SDN list, according to their own terms and conditions.

The US Treasury website list also includes Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, national security chief Eric Chan, current police chief Chris Tang, as well as ex-police chief Stephen Lo who oversaw the early months of last year’s protests and unrest. Security chief John Lee, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang and mainland officials Luo Huining and Zhang Xiaoming are also listed.

On Saturday, a Hong Kong government spokesperson called Washington’s actions “shameless and despicable,” accusing US authorities of “doxxing” for publishing personal details of the sanctioned officials. Beijing, meanwhile, called the action “barbarous and rude.”

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.