The outgoing administration of US President Donald Trump is preparing new sanctions on at least a dozen Chinese officials over their role in the disqualification of elected opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong last month.
A US official familiar with the matter said the move could come as soon as Monday and would target officials from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and likely officials from Hong Kong as well.
President Trump’s administration is keeping up pressure on Beijing in his final weeks in office before President-elect Joe Biden takes over on Jan. 20.
The State Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Up to 14 people, including officials of China’s Parliament, or National People’s Congress, and members of the CCP, would likely be targeted by measures such as asset freezes and financial sanctions, two sources said.
The US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said multiple individuals would be sanctioned although he did not provide names or positions of those being targeted.
Two other sources cautioned an announcement could still be delayed until later in the week.
Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government last month expelled four opposition members from its legislature after China’s Parliament gave city authorities new powers to curb dissent. The move triggered mass resignations by pro-democracy opposition lawmakers in the former British colony.
The expulsion of the elected legislators also raised further alarm in western democratic countries who said the move appeared to be part of a campaign to silence critics and called on Beijing to reverse course.
White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in November the expulsion showed the “One Country, Two Systems” formula, under which Hong Kong’s autonomy had been promised since Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997, was now “merely a fig leaf” and promised further US action.
In October, the US State Department warned international financial institutions doing business with individuals deemed responsible for China’s crackdown in the Asian financial hub that they could soon face tough sanctions.
Washington has already put sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the territory’s current and former police chiefs and other top officials in August for what it said was their role in curtailing freedoms in a crackdown on the territory’s pro-democracy movement.
In November, the State Department and Treasury Department imposed sanctions on four more Chinese officials in Hong Kong’s government and security establishment, barring them from travelling to the United States and blocking any US-related assets they might have.
Beijing has previously condemned US sanctions related to Hong Kong, calling it interference in China’s internal affairs.
Hong Kong is expected to be one of Mr. Biden’s thorniest challenges with China, which will be high on his foreign policy agenda with relations between Washington and Beijing at the lowest point in decades over an array of disputes.
Mr. Biden has promised to take a tougher line than Mr. Trump over human rights in China and other countries, so his response to the crackdown in Hong Kong could be an early test of that resolve. (Source: The Straits Times)