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World News

U.S. imposes sanctions on four Chinese officials over Hong Kong crackdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on four more Chinese officials in Hong Kong’s governing and security establishment over their alleged role in crushing dissent in the former British colony.

FILE PHOTO: Flags of China, Hong Kong and the U.S. fly next to each other along Fenwick Pier, in Hong Kong June 27, 2013. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

The U.S. Treasury and State Department identified the four as Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; Edwina Lau, deputy commissioner of police in Hong Kong, and Li Jiangzhou and Li Kwai-wah, two officials at the newly established national security office in Hong Kong.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the sanctions were for their role in implementing Hong Kong’s new national security law. He said they would be barred from traveling to the United States, and any U.S.-related assets would be blocked.

“These actions underscore U.S. resolve to hold accountable key figures that are actively eviscerating the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy,” he said in a statement.

None of the four could be reached immediately for comment.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung said the sanctions were “absolutely unacceptable, a blatant - and I would use the word ‘barbaric’ - interference.”

“We are not going to be intimidated,” Cheung told reporters, speaking at a regular news conference held on Tuesday morning Hong Kong time.

Washington has called China’s enactment of a new national security law in Hong Kong this year an unacceptable breach of China’s “one country, two systems” commitment.

The designations are the first sanctions imposed on China since Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump in last week’s U.S. election. Biden is due to take office on Jan. 20. Trump so far has refused to concede defeat.

In actions heralding a more authoritarian era for Hong Kong, China opened a new national security office in July, a week after imposing the new national security legislation to punish what it called crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Last month, the U.S. State Department warned international financial institutions doing business with individuals deemed responsible for China’s crackdown in Hong Kong that they could soon face tough sanctions.

Washington put sanctions on Carrie Lam, the territory’s current and former police chiefs and other top officials in August for what it said was their role in curtailing freedoms in a crackdown on the territory’s pro-democracy movement.

Relations between the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies, plunged to the lowest point in decades in the run-up to last week’s U.S. election. The two sides are at odds on a wide range of issues including China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its treatment of Hong Kong.

Reporting by Steve Holland, Humeyra Pamuk, David Brunnstrom and Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Marius Zaharia in Hong Kong; Editing by Howard Goller and Kenneth Maxwell

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