US sanctions 24 China officials for undermining Hong Kong autonomy

A man waves an American flag at a protest rally in Hong Kong as demonstrators called on US lawmakers to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. (Photo courtesy: AFP)

(, Mar17’21) – The US State Department has on Mar 16 released an update to the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, identifying two dozen Chinese officials, including a politburo member, for undermining the former British colony’s autonomy when the Chinese National People’s Congress approved a legislation last week to “overhaul” the supposedly special administrative region’s electoral system.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has identified 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials for sanctions, including 14 vice chairs of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. He has said their actions undermined the high degree of autonomy promised to Hong Kong when the city returned to Beijing rule in 1997.

On Mar 11, the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, approved a controversial resolution to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure that only so-called patriots, defined as pro-Communist Party of China, could hold office. The move was condemned by Western nations and rights groups for undermining Hong Kongers’ ability to elect their own representatives.

“This action further undermines the high degree of autonomy promised to people in Hong Kong and denies Hong Kongers a voice in their own governance, a move that the United Kingdom has declared to be a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the UPI Mar 16 quoted Blinken as saying in a statement, referring the agreement that returned the city to China on Jul 1, 1997.

Among the sanctioned officials is Wang Chen, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite 25-person Politburo and the ranking vice-chairperson of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

Financial institutions that knowingly conduct business with those listed under the act will be hit with sanctions, Blinken has said.

Ten people, including Hong Kong’s current Chief Executive Carrie Lam, were added to the list in Oct 2020.

China then responded to by accusing the United States of interfering in its internal affairs and imposing retaliatory sanctions on 29 former Trump officials after their last day in office on Jan 20. It accused them of pursuing policies that “gravely interfered with China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people and seriously disrupted China-US relations.”

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act was signed into law by former President Donald Trump in Jul 2020 to punish China and its officials responsible for imposing a draconian and widely condemned national security law upon Hong Kong with sanctions.

“A stable, prosperous Hong Kong that respects human rights, freedoms and political pluralism serves the interest of Hong Kong, mainland China and the broader international community,” Blinken has said. “The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the rights and freedoms of people in Kong Kong, and we will respond when the PRC fails to meet its obligations.”

The update to the Hong Kong Autonomy Act came after Blinken accused China of using “coercion and aggression” to violate human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet and to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy during his visit to Japan.

“China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Blinken was quoted as saying in a joint news conference.


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