The United States on Dec. 7 imposed sanctions on 14 Chinese officials over their role in curtailing freedoms in Hong Kong, the latest response by the Trump administration to Beijing’s widening crackdown on the city since it imposed a draconian national security law earlier this year.
According to the U.S. Treasury website, the sanctioned Chinese officials are members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which oversees the Chinese regime’s rubber-stamp legislature.
“The U.S. is sanctioning the senior leadership of China’s National People’s Congress in connection with developing, adopting, and implementing the National Security Law,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in a tweet on Dec. 7. “We will hold Beijing accountable for destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
Beijing on June 30 imposed a national security law for Hong Kong, after the NPC approved a bill in May authorizing its development. The law punishes vaguely defined offenses of secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
An array of pro-democracy activists, lawmakers, and media figures have been arrested since the law took effect.
In November, the city expelled four pro-democracy legislators after the NPC Standing Committee gave the local government powers to remove lawmakers if they’re deemed threatening to national security. The move prompted mass resignations by the city’s pro-democracy opposition lawmakers.
“Beijing’s unrelenting assault against Hong Kong’s democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition,” Pompeo said in a statement.
The NPC Standing Committee’s actions “effectively neutered the ability of the people of Hong Kong to choose their elected representatives,” Pompeo said. “These actions demonstrate once again Beijing’s complete disregard for its international commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-registered treaty.”
Under the treaty governing Hong Kong’s handover of sovereignty to China from Britain in 1997, the Chinese regime had agreed to allow the city autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland, under a framework known as “one country, two systems.”
The sanctions mean that the officials and their immediate family will be barred from traveling to the United States, and their U.S.-based assets will be frozen.
The Trump administration earlier slapped sanctions on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and 14 other Chinese and Hong Kong officials for their roles in overseeing the subversion of the city’s freedoms via implementing the national security law.