Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has credit card trouble after US sanctions

Carrie Lam was one of 11 officials sanctioned by the US for curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong.
Carrie Lam was one of 11 officials sanctioned by the US for curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong's leader said she's having trouble using her credit cards after the US imposed sanctions targeting Chinese officials and their allies in the city.

"As for myself, of course it will have a little bit of inconvenience here and there, because we have to use some financial services and we don't know whether that will relate back to an agency that has some American business - and the use of credit cards is sort of hampered," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CGTN posted late Monday (Aug 17).

"But those are really meaningless as far as I'm concerned."

Mrs Lam was one of 11 officials sanctioned earlier this month by US President Donald Trump for their roles in curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong, amid the implementation of new national security legislation imposed on the city by China in June.

Mrs Lam said at a weekly briefing on Tuesday that US sanctions against her – and broader retaliation from the Trump administration against Hong Kong – are “totally unjustified”.

She said her inability to visit the US wouldn’t impede Hong Kong’s efforts to advertise itself as a base for American firms, and said her administration was considering contesting the measures at the World Trade Organisation.

“Despite some inconvenience in my personal affairs, that is nothing that I will take to heart at all,” Mrs Lam said at the press conference, before a meeting of her advisory Executive Council. “We will continue to do what is right for the country and for Hong Kong.”

Spokespeople for Visa and Mastercard didn’t immediately reply to messages requesting comment outside of business hours.

China’s largest state-run banks operating in Hong Kong are taking tentative steps to comply with US sanctions imposed on officials in the city, Bloomberg reported last week, as they seek to safeguard their access to crucial dollar funding and overseas networks. Major lenders with operations in the US including Bank of China Ltd., China Construction Bank Corp., and China Merchants Bank Co. have turned cautious on opening new accounts for the 11 sanctioned officials, people familiar said.

 
 
 
 

Mrs Lam said on Tuesday that she would announce a third round of virus-control measures. She didn’t give a time frame, but said authorities would sort out the details quickly.

“There are still infected people in the community, so we must not let down our guard,” she said.

Hong Kong has extended all existing Covid-19 related social distancing measures for a week – to August 25 – as it continues to battle a new wave of cases. There was still no sign of a steadily decreasing trend in new infections, Lam said, adding that she was still concerned that there are many silent carriers in the community.

Mrs Lam also said she would give her annual policy address on Oct. 14.

Tuesday’s briefing followed the Executive Council’s summer recess and was the first time she has faced local media since the arrest last Monday of media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the national security legislation. She declined to comment on Lai’s arrest when asked by reporters.

Mrs Lam is one of the most visible Chinese leaders in the struggle over Hong Kong’s future. Her attempt last year to pass a bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland prompted months of pro-democracy protests, and she’s defended Beijing’s legal right to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and implement the security law.

The national security measures have fueled concerns about the state of Hong Kong’s autonomy from China, including freedoms of the press and the independence of its judicial system. Both have helped underpin Hong Kong’s reputation as a global financial hub.