Beijing’s two offices overseeing Hong Kong affairs hit out on Monday at the latest United States sanctions imposed on Chinese officials over this month’s mass arrests of opposition activists, warning the departing administration in Washington to bring an end to its “final act of madness”.
The central government also announced it would impose sanctions on American counterparts in a tit-for-tat retaliation.
The condemnations were issued in response to the US last week applying financial penalties to six more Chinese officials – including Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the nation’s top legislative body – following the high-profile rounding up of 55 members of the city’s opposition movement.
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“We strongly condemn and resolutely oppose the so-called sanctions,” the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) wrote in a statement.
“These tricks only expose [US politicians’] evil intention to make a fuss with Hong Kong problems and to stifle China’s development, and their blatant anxiety at seeing one after another of their groomed political agents facing legal consequences in the near future.”
The 55 were arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of subversion under the Beijing-imposed national security law for taking part last year in a primary ballot to select the opposition camp’s candidates for the now-postponed Legislative Council elections. Among those held was former legal academic Benny Tai Yiu-ting.
Defending the arrests, HKMAO insisted the unofficial race was part of a plot to subvert the city’s administration and so violated the national security law, which was imposed on June 30 last year and also bans acts of secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
China’s top body overseeing Hong Kong also urged the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – who earlier vowed to continue using all tools to hold to account all those who eroded the city’s freedoms – to stop his “final act of madness” before the transition of power in Washington.
Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong also weighed in on Monday, slamming the US sanctions as full of prejudice and a “blunt double standard”.
It said those arrested had ignored stern warnings from the local government, insisting instead on pursuing their attempts to paralyse the government with the primary run-off, even following the imposition of the national security law.
“The US’s repeated attempts to smear Hong Kong’s national security law and the ‘one country, two systems’ with its sanctions farce, not only severely violates international law and basic principles of international relations, but also demonstrates to the world their ugly hegemonism.”
Meanwhile, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Beijing had decided to sanction Americans – including officials, congressmen and NGO workers – who had “performed badly over Hong Kong affairs”. Direct family members were also included.
Others hit by the latest US sanctions include You Quan, vice-chairman of Beijing’s Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs who is also head of the Communist Party’s United Front Work Department, and Sun Qingye, deputy director of the central government’s national security office in the city.
You was the first high-ranking Chinese official belonging to a unit directly under the party’s Central Committee to be targeted by US sanctions over Hong Kong.
Also on the list were three officers serving Hong Kong police’s national security unit: Frederic Choi Chin-pang, Kelvin Kong Hok-lai and Andrew Kan Kai-yan.
Those sanctioned will have any US-linked assets frozen.
The authorities have said the opposition camp’s “35-plus” plan to seize control of Legco was part of a broader strategy to paralyse the government, provoke Beijing into dropping the “one country, two systems” policy under which Hong Kong is governed, and trigger international sanctions against the nation.
The arrests, most of which were made on January 6, sparked condemnation worldwide. Foreign ministers from the US, Canada, Britain and Australia said it was clear that the national security law was being used to “eliminate dissent and opposing political views” in the city and urged Chinese authorities to respect the rights and freedoms of Hongkongers.
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