Sanctions were imposed on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials including former police chiefs by the US on Friday for their role in curbing political freedoms in the special administrative region.
The imposed sanctions were under the executive order that was signed by US President Donald Trump last month in order to hold China to account for its actions against dissent in Hong Kong. They are part of the latest moves by the Trump administration against Beijing as his reelection bid for in November approaches.
The US Treasury Department said in a statement, "Carrie Lam is the chief executive directly responsible for implementing Beijing's policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes."
Several Officials Under Sanctions
As well as Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong Police commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo; John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong's secretary of security, and Teresa Cheng, the justice secretary, the statement said.
It said Beijing's imposition of draconian national security legislation had undermined Hong Kong's autonomy and allowed mainland security services to operate with impunity, "setting the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China, the statement added.
"The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy," Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. The sanctions freeze any US asset of the officials and generally bar Americans from doing business with them.
Lam's Postponement of Elections
Tensions between the United States and China have been increasing daily. China's foreign ministry said on Friday it firmly opposes executive orders that Trump announced this week to ban US transactions with the Chinese owners of the WeChat and TikTok apps.
Last month, Carrie Lam postponed a September 6 election to Hong Kong's legislature by a year because of a rise in coronavirus cases, dealing a blow to the pro-democracy opposition that had hoped to make huge gains.
The United States condemned the action, saying it was the latest example of Beijing undermining democracy in the Chinese-ruled territory. A source familiar with the matter said US deliberations on the sanctions intensified after the election postponement.
(With inputs from agencies)