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Hong Kong, Chinese officials jeer at U.S. sanctions over security law

Hong Kong’s leader and China’s top representative in the city took pot shots at the United States on Saturday after the Trump administration sanctioned them and nine other officials for allegedly cracking down on freedom and undermining the local autonomy of the former British colony.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam took to Facebook to say that the U.S. got her address wrong, listing the official address of her chief deputy instead. She noted that she was the deputy when she applied for her U.S. visa in 2016.

“By the way, my entry visa to the U.S. is valid until 2026. Since I have no desire to visit this country, it looks like I can take the initiative to cancel it,” Lam said.

The sanctions, announced Friday by the U.S. Treasury Department, block all property or other assets that the individuals have within U.S. jurisdiction.

Luo Huining, the director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said being included on the list shows that he has done what he should for the city and his country.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, centre, toasts with Luo Huining, left, head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong, following a flag-raising ceremony in the former British colony on July 1. (Kin Cheung/The Associated Press)

“I don’t have a penny of assets abroad. Isn’t it in vain to impose `sanctions’? Of course, I can also send 100 U.S. dollars to Mr. Trump for freezing,” he said in a statement on the office’s website.

Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau, who wasn’t sanctioned, called the sanctions “unreasonable and barbarous” and said they would harm U.S. interests in the city, an Asian financial and shipping hub.

Hong Kong has long enjoyed civil liberties not seen in mainland China because it is governed under the “one country, two systems” principle, which was been in place since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

However, Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong at the end of June, following months of anti-government protests last year.

The new law prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or what it sees as foreign intervention in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. Police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.

WATCH | Hundreds arrested in first hours of Hong Kong’s new security law:

Hong Kong police made their first arrests under a new security law Wednesday. In a statement on Facebook, police said they arrested 300 people. 3:58

Critics see the law as Beijing’s boldest move yet to erase the divide between Hong Kong’s Western-style system and the mainland’s authoritarian way of governing.

“The recent imposition of draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong has not only undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, it has also infringed on the rights of people in Hong Kong,” the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The Hong Kong government accused the U.S. of using Hong Kong as a pawn to create trouble in the China-U.S. relationship, calling the sanctions “blatant and barbaric interference” in China’s internal affairs.

Pro-Beijing protesters take part in a demonstration outside of the Consulate General of the United States in Hong Kong on Saturday. (Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

It said that while national security is under the purview of the central government in any country, the new law authorizes local authorities in Hong Kong to be its main enforcer and specifies that human rights will be protected.

“These legal provisions, coupled with the rule of law and an independent judiciary in Hong Kong, are clearly ignored by relevant U.S. officials who have chosen to make unsubstantiated and sweeping comments to serve their own interest,” a government statement said.

“We will not be intimidated.”

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