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US sanctions 24 Hong Kong and Chinese officials ahead of Blinken meeting with Beijing

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Sanctions were introduced under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was approved by the United States last year in response to the imposition by Beijing of a new national security law in Hong Kong that prohibits secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces.
Among these recently sanctioned they are Wang Chen, a member of the 25-member Politburo, one of China’s top legislatures, and Tam Yiu-chung, the only Hong Konger on the committee that drafted the national security law.

Blinken said the new sanctions underscore “our deep concern over the March 11 National People’s Congress decision to unilaterally undermine Hong Kong’s electoral system.”

Those sanctioned include several senior members of the NPC, the Chinese rubber stamp parliament and police officers in Hong Kong. The city leader, Carrie Lam, and several police commanders were already sanctioned previously.

“This action further undermines the high degree of autonomy promised to the people of Hong Kong and denies Hong Kongers their voice in their own governance, an action the UK has said violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration.” , said Blinken. .

“A stable and prosperous Hong Kong that respects human rights, freedoms and political pluralism serves the interests of Hong Kong, mainland China and the wider international community. The United States is united with our allies and partners to demonstrate their rights and the freedoms of the people in Hong Kong, and we will respond when the PRC breaches its obligations, ”he added.

Wednesday’s sanctions come as the Hong Kong legislature will have to consider a new bill establishing a test of “patriotism” for election candidates, which is expected to limit the majority of opposition members. traditional. The bill is guaranteed to be passed, as the legislature currently has no members of the opposition, as pro-democracy lawmakers he resigned en masse in protest of the expulsion of several of his comrades last year.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attend the 2 + 2 meeting at the Iikura Guest House in Tokyo on March 16, 2021.
The Washington Pass comes after Blinken expressed concern during a meeting with his counterparts in Tokyo on China’s use of “coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undermine democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert claims in the South China Sea that violate international law. ”

In response to these comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that US-Japan exchanges should help increase mutual understanding and trust between countries in the region and “not to direct or undermine the interests of any third party.”

The new sanctions could elicit a much more forceful response from Beijing, which has been seeking a temporary approach with the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, albeit largely in terms of China.

An important step toward improving relations was due to take place in Alaska on Thursday, when Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan meet with China’s two top diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi.

Beijing has not yet responded to the new sanctions, but it was immediately speculated among observers that this aggressive move by Washington ahead of the meeting could lead to its cancellation.

Last week, Zhao, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, urged the United States to “abandon the Cold War and the zero-sum mentality, respect Chinese sovereignty, security and development interests” and “stop ‘interfering in China’s internal affairs’ is usually used to refer to Washington pressuring Beijing over Hong Kong.

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