Washington sanctions Hong Kong leaders, further escalation of conflict with Beijing

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Washington further hardened its clash with Beijing on Friday by adopting sanctions against eleven Hong Kong leaders, including chief executive Carrie Lam, alongside sweeping measures against Chinese digital gems TikTok and WeChat.

The US government has announced the freezing of the assets of Mrs. Lam, the Secretaries of Security and Justice or the Chief of Police, accused of seeking to restrict the autonomy of the territory and “freedom of expression or assembly. Of its inhabitants.

“The United States supports the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and our authorities to target those who undermine its autonomy,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Carrie Lam

File photo, AFP

Carrie Lam

A senior Hong Kong official, Commerce Secretary Edward Yau, on Saturday called US sanctions “savage”.

“These kinds of sanctions that target officials and leaders in other countries are savage, disproportionate and unreasonable,” Yau said. “If the United States unilaterally takes this type of unreasonable action, it will end up affecting American businesses,” he warned.

The US sanctions are a response to China’s adoption in June of a national security law in the former British colony which, according to its critics, is leading to a decline in freedoms unprecedented since Hong Kong’s handover to China by the United Kingdom in 1997.

According to Beijing, the law makes it possible to ensure stability, to put an end to the violence that marked the protest movement of 2019 in Hong Kong, as well as to suppress the pro-independence current there.

But for Western countries, also worried about the postponement of the elections in Hong Kong under the pretext of a pandemic, the text aims to muzzle the Hong Kong opposition after the monster demonstrations last year, which denounced the influence of Beijing in the territory.

In retaliation, US President Donald Trump announced in mid-July the end of the preferential economic regime granted by the United States to the autonomous territory, a major international financial center, and had enacted a law providing for sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials. .


In the meantime, the climate has deteriorated between the two great powers. Accusing China of espionage, Washington closed its consulate in Houston (Texas), and China took possession of the United States consulate in Chengdu (southwest).

The United States has also taken sides with Beijing in the South China Sea territorial disputes and accused it of violating the rights of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

But it is in the technological sphere that the hardening is most radical.

Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order banning, within 45 days, any transaction “of persons under US jurisdiction” with ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, a light video application extremely popular with young people.

The American president also adopted a similar decree concerning the WeChat platform, which belongs to the Chinese giant Tencent and is omnipresent in the life of the Chinese (messaging, remote payments, reservations …).

The Republican president cited a “national emergency”, accusing the two apps of spying on their American users on Beijing’s behalf.

The decrees do not specify the practical consequences. But the ban on any transaction with the two companies could force Google and Apple to remove the two networks from their application stores, effectively preventing them from being used in the United States.

“Moral decline”

The United States “conducts arbitrary political manipulation and repression, which can only lead to its own moral decline and damage to its image,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday. .

TikTok for its part threatened to take legal action against the American decision, while Tencent examined in detail the decree to decide on the reaction to bring.

Donald Trump had accepted on Monday the possibility of an American group buying TikTok, but before September 15, under penalty of banning the platform.

He also demanded that a “significant proportion” of the transaction price be paid to the state, claiming that his government made the acquisition possible. A concept that has aroused strong criticism and some embarrassment among those around it.

The Microsoft IT group, which seems to accept these conditions, is in discussions with ByteDance to negotiate a forced acquisition.

In this context of tensions, China, which considers Donald Trump “unpredictable”, would prefer that he does not win a second term in the presidential election on November 3, said the US intelligence services, noting that Beijing had “accentuated his campaign of influence ”in the run-up to the election.

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