Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien warns China on Hong Kong

The 15 remaining opposition lawmakers have resigned en masse after four legislators were banished from the Legislative Council in Hong Kong. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - US national security adviser Robert O'Brien said China's latest clampdown in Hong Kong shows that the one country, two systems arrangement for the territory amounts to a "fig leaf" for dictatorship, and warned of new sanctions.

The warning came after China's top legislative body on Wednesday (Nov 11) passed a resolution allowing for the disqualification of any Hong Kong lawmakers who were not deemed sufficiently loyal.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam's government immediately banished four legislators, prompting the remaining 15 in the 70-seat Legislative Council to resign en masse hours later at a joint press briefing.

Mr O'Brien, in a statement released by the White House on Wednesday evening, said the US would "continue to utilise all the powers granted" under various laws and "identify and sanction those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong's freedom."

"This move makes it clear that dictatorship has descended onto Hong Kong and that Chinese Communist Party can eradicate all opposing voices in the legislature," Mr Fernando Cheung, one of the Hong Kong lawmakers, told Bloomberg News.

"There's no more separation of powers, no more 'one country, two systems,' and therefore no more Hong Kong as we know it."

Mr O'Brien didn't specify who, exactly, might be punished but the statement appears to be a foreshadowing of new more severe sanctions against the China's ruling Communist Party as well as officials in Hong Kong over a months-long crackdown on the city.

While the US has imposed sanctions against Mrs Lam and some officials in Beijing, it has so far held off punishing the country's senior hierarchy. Such a move would infuriate Beijing and accelerate a deterioration in relations between the two nations on a variety of issues.

Sanctions that reached up to China's leaders would also likely jeopardise President Donald Trump's trade deal. Yet the administration may be more willing to do that now that Mr Trump has lost re-election to Democratic nominee Joe Biden as it looks to cement a tougher policy toward Beijing.

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