US Sanctions 6 Foreign Officials Over Recent Mass Arrests in Hong Kong

January 15, 2021 Updated: January 15, 2021

The United States on Jan. 15 sanctioned six Chinese and Hong Kong officials in response to mass arrests of pro-democracy figures in the city last week.

Among those sanctioned is a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official You Quan, who heads the Party agency that oversees foreign influence operations.

Hong Kong authorities arrested 53 pro-democracy politicians and activists on Jan. 6 on suspicion of “subversion” under the national security law (NSL), which Beijing imposed on the city last summer. Most of those arrested had taken part in an unofficial primary for a legislative election that was later postponed. An American lawyer, John Clancey, was among those arrested.

Describing the events as an “appalling crackdown,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the arrests were “yet another stark example of Hong Kong’s freedoms and democratic processes being fundamentally undermined by the PRC [People’s Republic of China].”

The secretary called on the regime and Hong Kong authorities to “immediately release” people who have been targeted under the NSL and dismiss the charges against them.

He said the United States “will continue to use all tools at our disposable to hold those responsible to account.”

“We condemn PRC actions that erode Hong Kong’s freedoms and democratic processes,” Pompeo said.

The sanctions hit four Hong Kong officials, including police officials, and two Chinese officials, including Quan, who is Vice Chairman of the CCP’s Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs.

Quan is also head of the Party’s United Front Work Department. The group coordinates thousands of groups to carry out foreign political influence operations, suppress dissident movements, gather intelligence, and facilitate the transfer of technology to China.

The United States has already imposed sanctions on 29 Chinese and Hong Kong officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, over their roles in undermining the city’s freedoms.

The arrests last week attracted international condemnation.

The governments of Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, in a Jan. 10 joint declaration, said the NSL was a “clear breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and is “being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views.” In the Joint Declaration, a 1984 treaty governing Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule, Beijing had promised the city’s inhabitants autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland, under a framework known as “one country, two systems.”

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