Hong Kong Justice Secretary Cheng seeks to ease firms' worries on anti-sanctions law

Ms Teresa Cheng said the new law would only be used to counter unreasonable sanctions imposed on the city by foreign governments.
Ms Teresa Cheng said the new law would only be used to counter unreasonable sanctions imposed on the city by foreign governments.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong's top legal official said businesses should not be "too worried" about China's imposition of an anti-sanctions law on the financial hub, as the government tries to ease worries Beijing's national security goals could impact operations.

"I know some of us may be very concerned," Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng told a news conference on Tuesday (Aug 3), according to the South China Morning Post and other local media outlets. "But I think we shouldn't be too worried for now."

China's top legislative body could move as soon as this month to add the anti-sanctions legislation - a measure devised by Beijing to hit back at the United States and other critics of its human rights record - to Hong Kong's charter.

The National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee plans to meet from Aug 17 to 20 to consider formally designating that some national measures apply in Hong Kong, and local media reported last week that the sanctions law was expected to be on the agenda.

The move follows the NPC's passage of the anti-sanctions law in June, asserting broad powers to seize assets from entities that formulate or implement sanctions against the country.

The US flagged the possibility that China could apply the anti-sanctions law in Hong Kong when President Joe Biden's administration warned businesses about the growing risks of operating in the city.

On Tuesday, Ms Cheng said the new law would only be used to counter unreasonable sanctions imposed on the city by foreign governments.

Since last year, the NPC Standing Committee has added provisions to the city's charter, effectively ending open elections and creating a new class of national security crimes subject to sentences as long as life in prison.

Ms Cheng, who is one of several Hong Kong officials sanctioned by the US over the implementation of the security law, defended the central government's right to amend Hong Kong law.