Rights Group Urges Sanctions on Hong Kong Officials, Targeting Their Hidden Overseas Assets

By Nie Law
Nie Law
Nie Law
April 28, 2022 Updated: April 29, 2022

A human rights organization reported that a number of  pro-Beijing, top officials in Hong Kong, who seriously violate human rights, own properties and hidden assets outside the country. The rights group urged those countries to follow the example of sanctions against Russia and launch a sanction list against the named Chinese officials.

Hong Kong Watch, a British non-governmental organization headquartered in London, reported on April 21 that 9 members of the Hong Kong Executive Council and 12 members of the Legislative Council own properties in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, and France.

All the named officials swore allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and publicly supported the Hong Kong National Security Law. They have been suppressing Hong Kong social activists, press freedom, and civil society in the name of working against “foreign forces.”

According to the report, nine members of the Hong Kong Executive Council who hold properties overseas include the Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kan-sing; the Secretary for Food and Health, Sophia Chan; the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Yau Tang-wah; the Secretary for the Civil Service, Nip Tak-kuen; Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Hui Ching-yu; former Chairman of the University of Hong Kong Committee, Li Kwok-cheung; Chairman of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Chow Chung-kong; Chairman of the Financial Development Council, Cha Shih May-lung; and non-official Convenor of the Executive Council, Chan Charnwut.

Sophia Chan and Yau Tang-wah each hold three properties in the UK. The 12 members of the Legislative Council include Chairman Leung Kwan-yuen, and members Fok Kai-kong, Tien Puk-sun, and Lan San-Keung. Among this group seven hold properties in the UK and the rest have properties in other countries.

These politicians are so called “patriots,” a name first brought up by former CCP leader Deng Xiaoping before the handover of Hong Kong sovereignty. During the Sino-British negotiation in June 1984, Deng Xiaoping clarified that the  “Hong Kong government will be mainly formed by patriots,” “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong has a limit and standard, they must be patriots in Hong Kong.”

On Dec. 19 last year, Hong Kong completed the Seventh Legislative Council election. This was the first Legislative Council election after the CCP pushed changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system. Since then, “patriots ruling Hong Kong” replaced “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong.”

Among the 153 candidates in the current Legislative Council election, the vast majority are in the Pro-establishment camp. Less than 10 percent are regarded as Opposition camp or Pro-democracy camp, such as Civil Party and the Democratic Party. “Patriots ruling Hong Kong” in shorts means that Hong Kong is governed only by those who support the CCP regime.

The British report criticized the “hypocrisy” of these Hong Kong “patriotic” officials owning properties abroad, and proposed that all the identified countries consider reviewing these officials’ assets and drawing up a sanctions list.

Sam Goodman, senior policy adviser to Hong Kong Watch, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia that these self-claimed “patriotic” legislators and executive council members are happy to own properties in foreign countries, send their children to study abroad, and hide their wealth under foreign accounts, all things that are obviously hypocritical.

Goodman sees this hypocrisy as that of Russian oligarchs. He called for “Western governments to learn from Russia and impose specific sanctions on officials believed to have committed serious human rights abuses.

As stipulated in Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong must consult the members of the Executive Council before making any important decisions, and implement a “collective responsibility.” Therefore, Goodman believes that all members of the Executive Council must implement the Hong Kong National Security Law and be responsible for human rights violations.

Goodman also said that these Hong Kong officials, who violate human rights, will vote for legislation to pass the Article 23 National Security Law of the Basic Law, as well as the Fake News Law and the Anti-Espionage Law, further weakening Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom.

Goodman urged the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan to immediately set up sanctions lists to prevent officials and legislative council members from accessing their Western properties, bank accounts, and assets.

Lord Alton, the patron of Hong Kong Watch and member of the British House of Lords, has also called for a review of assets held by Hong Kong officials in the UK, urging the British government to adopt the Hong Kong Watch recommendations.

Lord Alton said that while the British government was tracking the assets of the Russian rulers in the UK, government ministers should also adopt the Hong Kong Watch recommendations to review the UK assets held by Hong Kong and Chinese officials.

“It is long overdue for the British government to take the lead on this issue and develop a sanctions list covering officials named by Hong Kong Watch,” he said.

Hui Chi-fung, a former Hong Kong legislator now exiled in Australia, called on governments to stop allowing human rights abusers to use their countries’ freedoms to hide assets.

Ironically, these officials with assets overseas also demanded the confiscation of the assets of Hong Kong dissidents “as punishment for our fight for freedom and democracy,” said Hui Chi-fung.

Hong Kong Watch was established in 2017 to monitor the conditions of human rights, freedoms, and rule of law in Hong Kong, and urge the CCP to abide by its commitments to the Hong Kong people in the Sino-British Join Declaration.

Nie Law