The U.S. imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and ten other top officials from Hong Kong and mainland China for “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the U.S. Treasury announced on Friday.
Hong Kong’s police commissioner and several political secretaries are among those sanctioned, a statement issued by the U.S. Treasury said.
“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said.
The U.S. Treasury directly accuses Lam of “implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes.”
“In 2019, Lam pushed for an update to Hong Kong’s extradition arrangements to allow for extradition to the mainland, setting off a series of massive opposition demonstrations in Hong Kong,” the statement reads.
The move comes weeks after China imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong which allows for the arrest of anyone in Hong Kong – and imprisonment of a minimum of ten years – found guilty of four “national security” crimes: terrorism, collusion with a foreign government, secession, and the vague “subversion of state power.”
The new law undermines the limited autonomy Hong Kong is allowed under a “One Country, Two Systems” policy that Beijing agreed to after Britain handed Hong Kong back to China from colonial rule in 1997. Under that policy, laws passed in Beijing do not legally apply in Hong Kong, but Hong Kong police have already made multiple arrests against pro-democracy protesters since the law passed.
The sanctions also come amid heightened diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and China. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said it would ban U.S. business transactions with the Chinese owners of the social media apps WeChat and TikTok.