July 16, 2024, 2:03 am

US to impose new visa curbs on Hong Kong officials

  • Update Time : Saturday, March 30, 2024
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Photo: Collected

International Desk:

The United States said on Friday it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on multiple Hong Kong officials over the crackdown on rights and freedoms in the Chinese-ruled territory, reports Reuters.

A statement from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that in the past year, China continued to take actions against Hong Kong’s promised high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and rights and freedoms, including with the recent enactment of a new national security law known as Article 23.

“In response, the Department of State is announcing that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on multiple Hong Kong officials responsible for the intensifying crackdown on rights and freedoms,” Blinken said.

The statement did not mention the officials who would be targeted.

In November, Hong Kong condemned a U.S. bill calling for sanctions against 49 Hong Kong officials, judges and prosecutors involved in national security cases, saying U.S. legislators were grand-standing and trying to intimidate the city.

Officials named in that Hong Kong Sanctions Act included Secretary for Justice Paul Lam, Police chief Raymond Siu and judges Andrew Cheung, Andrew Chan, Johnny Chan, Alex Lee, Esther Toh and Amanda Woodcock.

The United States has imposed visa restrictions and other sanctions in the past on Hong Kong officials blamed for undermining freedoms and announced an end to the special economic treatment the territory long enjoyed under U.S. law.

It has also warned that foreign financial institutions that conduct business with them would be subject to sanctions.

The U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act requires the State Department to report each year to Congress on conditions in Hong Kong.

“This year, I have again certified that Hong Kong does not warrant treatment under U.S. laws in the same manner as the laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997,” Blinken said, referring to when Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain.

“This year’s report catalogs the intensifying repression and ongoing crackdown by PRC and Hong Kong authorities on civil society, media, and dissenting voices, including through the issuance of bounties and arrest warrants for more than a dozen pro-democracy activists living outside Hong Kong,” Blinken said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Earlier on Friday, the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia said it had closed its Hong Kong bureau, citing concerns over staff safety after the enactment of the new national security law.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule with the guarantee that its high degree of autonomy and freedoms would be protected under a “one country, two systems” formula.

In recent years, many pro-democracy politicians and activists have been jailed or gone into exile, and liberal media outlets and civil society groups have been shut down.

This month, in a joint statement, 145 community and advocacy groups condemned the security law and called for sanctions on officials involved in its passage, and a review of the status of Hong Kong’s Economic & Trade Offices worldwide.

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