(ATF) US officials and politicians were quick to condemn China when Hong Kong’s government disqualified four opposition legislators on Wednesday, minutes after the Chinese parliament passed a resolution allowing the city’s executive to expel legislators without having to go through the courts.
US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said the move showed the Chinese Communist Party had “flagrantly violated its international commitments” and the United States would “continue to identify and sanction those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.”
Senator Marco Rubio, a former presidential candidate who is acting chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, said on Twitter: “China’s communist party continues to tighten its grip on the government of Hong Kong and destroyed the last small vestige of autonomy.”
The Asia Eight: Daily must-reads from world’s most dynamic region
Senator Mitt Romney, a fellow Republican who was the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, echoed that view, saying on Twitter: “Once again, the Chinese communist party takes measures to quash political dissent – this time, flexing their muscle over legislators. I continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong as they weather yet another blow to their freedoms.”
The clampdown had already been condemned by Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who said: “China’s campaign to harass, stifle and disqualify democratic opposition is a further assault on the joint declaration, tarnishes its international reputation and undermines Hong Kong’s long-term stability. China must live up to its international responsibilities.”
Joe Biden is president-elect of the US after his projected victory in the recent elections, but Donald Trump has so far refused to concede defeat and will in any event remain president for the next two months.
That complicates geopolitical calculations for China and could tempt the Trump administration to provide a distraction from its domestic troubles by delivering a severe reaction to the latest restrictions on opposition politicians in Hong Kong.
More China and HK officials sanctioned
The US had already announced further sanctions against Hong Kong politicians earlier this week, before the latest move to eject opposition politicians from the legislature.
“Today we are taking action against four Chinese and Hong Kong-based officials in connection with policies and actions that have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy, eroded the rule of law, and stifled dissent through politically motivated arrests,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.
The outgoing US administration may now be tempted to revisit more extreme anti-Chinese steps that had been discussed before, such as limiting the ability of Chinese companies to do business in the US.
President Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien did not give any details about fresh sanctions on Wednesday evening in the US but further announcements can be expected.