As well as Carrie Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong Police commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo; John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong's secretary of security, and Teresa Cheng, the justice secretary.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on August 5, 2020.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, DC on August 5, 2020. (AFP)

The US has imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the territory's current and former police chiefs and eight other officials for their role in curtailing political freedoms in the territory.

The sanctions were imposed on Friday under an executive order US President Donald Trump signed last month to punish China for its moves against dissent in Hong Kong and are the latest action by his administration against Beijing in the run-up to his November re-election bid.

As well as Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong Police commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo; John Lee Ka-chiu, Hong Kong's secretary of security, and Teresa Cheng, the justice secretary, the US Treasury Department said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States was acting because Beijing had violated its promise of autonomy that it made to Hong Kong before Britain handed back the territory in 1997.

"Today's actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities' actions are unacceptable and in contravention of the PRC's commitments under 'one country, two systems' and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-registered treaty," Pompeo said.

"Savage and unreasonable"

Washington's decision to place sanctions on Hong Kong officials is "savage and unreasonable", the Chinese city's commerce secretary said, warning of possible blowback for US businesses in the international financial hub.

"This kind of sanction – if targeting officials or leaders of another country – is savage, disproportionate and unreasonable," Edward Yau told reporters.

"If the US unilaterally carries out this kind of unreasonable action, it will, in the end, affect US companies," he added

Lam 'directly responsible'

It said Beijing's imposition of draconian national security legislation had undermined Hong Kong's autonomy and allowed mainland security services to operate with impunity, "setting the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China".

"Carrie Lam is the chief executive directly responsible for implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes," it said.

“The US stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.

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The sanctions freeze any US asset of the officials and generally bar Americans from doing business with them.

Tensions between the US and China have been increasing daily. China's foreign ministry said on Friday it firmly opposes executive orders that Trump announced this week to ban US transactions with the Chinese owners of the WeChat and TikTok apps.

Last month, Carrie Lam postponed a September 6 election to Hong Kong's legislature by a year because of a rise in coronavirus cases, dealing a blow to the pro-democracy opposition that had hoped to make huge gains.

The US condemned the action, saying it was the latest example of Beijing undermining democracy in the Chinese-ruled territory.

A source familiar with the matter said US deliberations on the sanctions intensified after the election postponement.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies