China reacted with fury on Tuesday after the Trump administration targeted for sanctions 14 senior lawmakers in the country’s top legislative body, including one of the 25 members of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politiburo, in a further U.S. response to Beijing’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s long-cherished democracy.
“Outrageous, unscrupulous, crazy and vile,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chungying said of the action announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “For some time, the U.S. side has been meddling in Hong Kong affairs in every way under the pretext of upholding democracy, human rights and autonomy in Hong Kong, and supporting violent activities that split the nation and disrupt social order.”
“Over a period of time, anti-China extremists in the United States, headed by Pompeo, have totally lost their minds in their unscrupulous political crackdown on China,” she told a press briefing at the ministry.
In a step designed to “hold Beijing accountable for undermining Hong Kong’s promised autonomy,” the U.S. government designated the 14 vice-chairpersons of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the body that voted unanimously over the summer in favor of the controversial “national security law” imposed on the territory.
One of them is Wang Chen, the lawmaker who introduced the draft legislation last spring. He is also a member of the CCP’s Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body at the helm of the party led by Xi Jinping. It’s only the second time a CCP Politburo member has been designated for U.S. sanctions. Last July another Politiburo member, Chen Quanguo – who is also CCP party chief in Xinjiang – was sanctioned over mass human rights abuses in that region.
“These individuals and their immediate family members will be barred from travelling to the United States,” Pompeo said. “Their assets within the jurisdiction of the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons will be blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”
Chinese vice foreign minister Zheng Zeguang summoned U.S. charge d’affaires Robert Forden and formally protested the decision, accusing the U.S. of being the “biggest black hand” behind the social unrest in Hong Kong during past months, according to a foreign ministry statement.
“It’s not true that the U.S. cares about Hong Kong’s democracy, human rights and autonomy,” Zheng said. “It’s true they want to make a mess in Hong Kong and sabotage China’s stable development.”
Zheng and Hua both vowed that China would take “countermeasures,” without elaborating.
Global Times, a CCP paper, cited analysts as saying that “potential responses may include targeting more U.S. lawmakers, and even the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong.”
“The current U.S. administration shouldn’t assume that its malicious moves can be repeated and will not be retaliated,” the party mouthpiece said in a separate editorial. “It overestimates itself. China will return it with a couple of slaps.”
The law imposed last summer, the CCP’s response to sustained protests in Hong Kong during 2019 and earlier this year, outlaws actions determined by Beijing to constitute subversion, secession, and collusion with foreign forces. Critics see it as a blatant attempt to erode freedoms and suppress any expressions of dissent.
Under the so-called “one country, two systems” formula, Beijing promised that Hong Kong would enjoy limited autonomy and a capitalist system for at least 50 years, after the former British colony’s return to communist Chinese rule in 1997.
The 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act, governing how the U.S. would treat Hong Kong after 1997, empowered the president to issue an executive order suspending privileges enjoyed by the territory if he determines that Hong Kong is not “sufficiently autonomous” from the mainland.
In an executive order last July, President Trump duly ended the special treatment that Hong Kong was afforded under U.S. law. The sanctions announced on Tuesday were authorized by that executive order.
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed the Hong Kong People’s Freedom and Choice Act of 2020, legislation that would offer Hong Kong residents “temporary protected status” in the U.S. for five years, and expedite the processing of refugee applications from people living in Hong Kong.
Responding to that move, Hua told her briefing it was “rather surreal” that U.S. politicians were “concerning themselves a great deal with the freedom of the Chinese people in Hong Kong” at a time of soaring coronavirus cases and deaths at home.
“The CPC and the Chinese government enjoy an approval rate higher than 90 percent,” Hua said. “I have also seen authoritative polls showing that 87 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the status quo of their country and more than 70 percent think it is heading in the wrong direction.”
“I believe everyone can see clearly that the Americans’ professed concern for the freedom of the people of Hong Kong is nothing but a cover hiding their true aim of using Hong Kong to contain China’s development in the name of democracy and freedom.”
H/T CNS News