US names 10 to be sanctioned under new Hong Kong Autonomy Act

State Department to list financial institutions that support China's crackdown in 60 days, secondary sanctions to follow

U.S. Capitol building

U.S. Capitol building (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. State Department on Wednesday (Oct. 14) presented Congress with a list of names of those it says have undermined Hong Kong's freedoms and warned that sanctions on financial institutions that do business with them will be forthcoming in 60 days.

The report, which was stipulated by the Hong Kong Autonomy Act that entered force in mid-July, is aimed to inflict costs on those who have supported either directly or indirectly China's power grab in the city. The 10 people named included Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and nine others already sanctioned by the Treasury Department.

"The Chinese Communist Party has routinely dismantled the autonomy that Beijing promised to the Hong Kong people & the world in a UN-registered treaty," wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter. "@StateDept released a report on 10 individuals whose actions have undermined freedoms of assembly, speech, press, or rule of law."

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act required the State Department to report to Congress within 90 days with a list of foreign individuals and entities found to be responsible for the erosion of the freedoms and privileges guaranteed to the city by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Basic Law — Hong Kong's "mini-constitution." After an additional 60 days, the department must release a subsequent list of financial institutions that knowingly supported transactions with those on the list.

The act details punitive measures, including the freezing of assets, prohibition from "withdrawing, transporting, or exporting any property" falling under U.S. jurisdiction, and the revocation or denial of visas. The secondary sanctions on "foreign financial institutions" that do business with said individuals mark an escalation of pressure as U.S.-China relations continue to deteriorate.

President Trump inked the Hong Kong Kong Autonomy Act two weeks after Beijing foisted the now-infamous national security act upon Hong Kong. That same day, he also signed an executive order ending the decades-long special trade status granted to the formerly autonomous region, upping the ante in the U.S.' escalating and multi-theater power struggle with China.

HSBC and Standard Chartered are believed to be possible targets of the looming sanctions. Both of the London-headquartered banks publicly backed the contentious national security law in June, before it was even released. Pompeo has accused them of being complicit in China's "coercive bully tactics" against the UK.

The U.S. Treasury Department in August unveiled sanctions against 11 Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam, Commissioner of Police Chris Tang, and Secretary for Security John Lee for "undermining Hong Kong's autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression or assembly of the citizens of Hong Kong." As a result, their assets were frozen and they were barred from transactions or contributions from Americans or individuals "transiting" through the U.S.

Lam and Lee publicly denied having any assets in the U.S., and Beijing's top representative in Hong Kong said the U.S.' "clowning actions" were ineffective, asserting that they prove American officials' determination to prop up "anti-China chaos."

On Sunday (Oct. 11), State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus called out Hong Kong authorities after the arrest of nine people for allegedly aiding a dozen Hongkongers who were caught in August fleeing for Taiwan by boat and subsequently held incommunicado in China. Ortagus said the Hong Kong government should "secure the return of due process rights, not make new arrests."