HK calls US sanctions against officials 'despicable'

It says US is trying to obstruct its efforts to safeguard national security

The US has begun revoking the "special status" Hong Kong had enjoyed and also sanctioned officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam. PHOTO: ST FILE

HONG KONG • Hong Kong's government expressed its "utmost anger" towards a US decision to sanction six officials from the city and China, calling the move "insane, shameless and despicable".

The United States is trying to "intervene" in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong, and "obstruct" their efforts to safeguard national security, the city's government said in a statement yesterday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the US would sanction the officials as part of President Donald Trump's executive order on Hong Kong normalisation.

The six people targeted for new sanctions include Mr Frederic Choi, director of the national security division of the Hong Kong police, and Mr Sun Qingye, a deputy to Mr Zheng Yanxiong, who was appointed in July to head a new national security office in Hong Kong.

Also named were pro-Beijing legislator Tam Yiu-chung and Mr You Quan of China's United Front Work Department.

The move is the latest among a raft of measures that the White House has taken to punish China after Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong last year.

The law has cast doubt on whether the former colony can still have the "high degree of autonomy" that was promised before the British handed it back to China in 1997. The US has begun revoking the "special status" the city had enjoyed and also sanctioned officials, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The Hong Kong government said in the statement: "The US acts are displaying double standards and hypocrisy, let alone blatantly breaching international laws and basic norms governing international relations."

The excuse that the US uses to sanction the officials was "lame" and "could hardly stand up to challenge", it added.

Meanwhile, five Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters who reportedly fled to Taiwan have arrived in the US intending to seek asylum, an activist group said yesterday.

The Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), a US-based group, said it had welcomed a group of young activists to America last week and their journey had been "arduous and perilous".

"The activists, all under the age of 30, took part in the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, faced protest-related arrests and charges, and fled the city by boat last July," said HKDC founder Samuel Chu.

"I am relieved and overjoyed to welcome them to the United States and to assist them as they seek asylum and a new life."

Taiwanese media in August reported that the five Hong Kongers tried to flee to the self-ruled island in late July and were intercepted by its authorities.

Officials in Taiwan have since kept a low profile regarding the case, declining to comment.

After massive pro-democracy protests across Hong Kong in 2019 in which more than 11,000 people were arrested, Beijing imposed the sweeping national security law last June to silence dissent.

In August, another group of 12 Hong Kong activists - including one arrested under the national security law - made an attempt to flee by speedboat to Taiwan but were arrested by the Chinese coastguard.

Last month, a Chinese court jailed 10 of these 12 fugitives for up to three years for "organising and participating in an illegal border crossing".

At least 50 former Hong Kong protesters applied for asylum in various jurisdictions before the coronavirus pandemic ended most international travel last year. Hundreds more have relocated to Taiwan.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 17, 2021, with the headline HK calls US sanctions against officials 'despicable'. Subscribe