Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement Friday (July 16) criticizing the Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities for using national security laws to systematically undermine Hong Kong’s democratic institutions for a year, delaying elections, disqualifying winning lawmakers from office and forcing Hong Kong government officials to swear allegiance in order to keep their jobs.
In his statement, Blinken noted that since the protest demonstrations erupted in 2019, the Hong Kong government has arrested thousands of Hong Kong people who have spoken out against government policies because of their differing views, including those who posted on social media or participated in candlelight memorial services. Journalists have been arrested simply for performing their job duties and reporting on the government’s actions and crackdowns against protesters.
Secretary Blinken specifically cited the ongoing and politically motivated crackdown on press freedom in Hong Kong, which not only imprisoned Apple Daily founder Lai Chi-ying, but also forced Apple Daily, considered a symbol of independent reporting, to cease publication.
According to Blinken, Beijing has undermined Hong Kong’s credibility as an accountable and transparent government that respects individual freedoms and has violated its commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy for 50 years.
In the statement, Blinken said the United States will continue to fight for the rights and freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. The United States is also taking action in the face of a year of decisions by Beijing to stifle the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong. Blinken said the United States is sending a clear message today that we stand firmly with the people of Hong Kong.
In his statement, Blinken cited two decisions made by the U.S. government that day regarding Hong Kong.
First, in terms of accountability, the U.S. State Department, under Executive Order 13936 [The President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization signed by President Trump “], the State Department placed the seven deputy directors of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong, Chen Dong, He Jing, Lu Xinning, Qiu Hong, Tan Tieu, Yang Jianping and Yin Zonghua, on the “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons” sanctions list. According to Blinken, the Liaison Office is a platform for the Chinese government to exert influence in Hong Kong and has repeatedly undermined the high degree of autonomy guaranteed to Hong Kong people in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Second, in terms of transparency, the business environment in Hong Kong has deteriorated over the past year. Legal, financial, operational and reputational risks that are not uncommon in mainland China are now increasingly present in Hong Kong. And a healthy business and investment environment requires a transparent regulatory structure and adherence to the rule of law. The U.S. Department of State, jointly with the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security, issued a Hong Kong-specific business alert that day, cautioning U.S. companies still operating in Hong Kong that they are subject to Hong Kong laws, including the Hong Kong version of the National Security Act.
According to Blinken’s statement, U.S. companies doing business in Hong Kong may face new risks under the National Security Law and other new laws, potential electronic surveillance and breaches of data privacy, restricted access to information, and potential retaliation for compliance with U.S. sanctions.
The Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Trade Representative, and Labor also jointly issued a new Business Alert this Tuesday, July 13, alerting U.S. businesses and individuals to the reputational, economic, and legal risks of engaging in supply chain transactions with entities involved in forced labor and other abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.
Last week, the Biden administration added 14 Chinese companies and other organizations to its list of entities to be denied access to for alleged human rights abuses or intrusive high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang.