The United States is preparing to impose sanctions on at least a dozen Beijing and Hong Kong officials over their alleged role in the disqualification of elected pan-democratic legislators in Hong Kong, according to three sources, including a US official familiar with the matter.
The move, reported by Reuters, could come as soon as Monday and will target Communist Party officials as US President Donald Trump's administration keeps up pressure on Beijing in his final weeks in office. President-elect Joe Biden takes over on January 20.
The State Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Up to 14 people, including officials of the National People's Congress, would likely be targeted by measures such as asset freezes and financial sanctions, two sources told the Reuters news agency.
The US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said multiple individuals would be sanctioned. A person familiar with the matter said the group would likely include officials from Hong Kong as well as the mainland.
The sources did not provide names or positions of those being targeted for sanctions. Two sources cautioned an announcement could still be delayed until later in the week.
"China has always firmly opposed and strongly condemned US interference in China's domestic affairs through the Hong Kong issue," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news briefing in Beijing on Monday, in response to a question on the Reuters report.
The Hong Kong government expelled four opposition members from its legislature last month after the NPC gave SAR authorities new powers to curb dissent. The move triggered mass resignations by pro-democracy lawmakers.
It also raised further alarm in the West. The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group – made up of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – said last month the move appeared to be part of a campaign to silence critics and called on Beijing to reverse course.
Washington has already put sanctions on Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the territory's current and former police chiefs and other top officials in August for what it said was their role in curtailing freedoms.
Beijing has previously condemned US sanctions related to Hong Kong, calling it interference in China’s internal affairs. (Reuters)
Last updated: 2020-12-07 HKT 19:29