The US Treasury has taken action against Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and 10 other top officials from the region and mainland China.
The new sanctions represent an escalation of the US’s anti-China campaign, and are being used to target those undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
They also 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.
Hong Kong called the sanctions “blatant and barbaric interference” in the affairs of the People’s Republic of China by using the territory “as a pawn” in the two countries relationship.
Lam's spokesman said she would not be "intimidated."
"Speaking on behalf of her senior colleagues who are being targeted, the Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam said that we are discharging an honourable duty to safeguard national security, protecting the life and interests of not only the 7.5 million Hong Kong people but also the 1.4 billion Mainlanders," the statement read.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said the moves “send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable.”
“We will not stand by while the people of Hong Kong suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or its enablers,” he tweeted.
Today, the U.S. is designating 11 individuals responsible for the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. We will not stand by while the people of Hong Kong suffer brutal oppression at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party or its enablers.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 7, 2020
The move came hours after US president Donald Trump issued orders banning US companies from having dealings with WeChat and ByteDance. Bytedance owns TikTok, which has become a flashpoint for Trump since it emerged that Microsoft is in talks to buy the video-sharing app.
Sanctions also come following a move to revoke Hong Kong’s special trade relationship with the US. The city no longer has the autonomy it was meant to retain under the “one country, two systems” model.