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China strikes back at US threat of sanctions over HK

Hong Kong’s banks could face sanctions if they engage in “significant” transactions with officials blacklisted by the US over a controversial national security law. (SCMP/Warton Li)

China on Thursday(Oct. 15) expressed firm opposition to and denunciation of the US side creating the so-called "Hong Kong Autonomy Act," and sanctioning Chinese personnel based on it, vowing countermeasures "if the US is bent on going this way."

That came after the US State Department's recent warning about tough sanctions soon to be put on international financial institutions doing business with Chinese individuals deemed responsible for undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.

In responding to a query about China's comments on the topic at a regular press conference Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that China is firmly opposed to and strongly condemns the so-called "Hong Kong Autonomy Act" made by the US and sanctions put on Chinese individuals based on it. "We have lodged stern representation with the US side."

Zhao said Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong, and Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs. No foreign country has the right to make irresponsible remarks or interfere in Hong Kong's affairs.

The US has grossly violated international law and basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China's internal affairs, and further exposed its sinister motive to undermine Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and contain China's development.

The spokesperson urged the US side to correct its mistakes and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's other internal affairs in any form.

"If the US is bent on going this way, China will take resolute countermeasures to safeguard national sovereignty and security interests and the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and the relevant personnel," Zhao added.

Also on Thursday, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government said it strongly opposed the US Secretary of State's report under the so-called Hong Kong Autonomy Act.

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, an HKSAR government spokesman said the threat of sanctions on financial institutions was another example of US hegemony. He noted that the US' sanctions will not create an obligation for financial institutions under Hong Kong law.

The spokesman added that Hong Kong’s financial institutions and financial system as a whole are robust and resilient and they will continue to operate normally and smoothly despite any undue pressure from the US.

The HKSAR government urged the US to act responsibly by refraining from taking measures that may undermine the interests of the international financial system.

It reiterated that the Chief Executive and other officials who are being targeted by the US have made it clear that they will not be intimidated.

“We will fully support and facilitate any countermeasure taken by our nation against the US. We will also defend Hong Kong's interests against the US' unilateral actions through various means," the spokesman said.

The HKSAR government also disagreed with the comments in the report that smear and demonize the National Security Law, reiterating that the enactment of this law is both timely and necessary to uphold the principle of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong.

It strongly reprimanded the US authorities for publishing a report that contains totally groundless and irresponsible accusations.

“Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law and law enforcement agencies are duty-bound to take action against unlawful acts. Any person who is arrested has the right to a fair trial by our independent courts, and the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the accused committed a crime beyond reasonable doubt before there can be a conviction," the spokesman said.

The HKSAR government formally took issue in September with the US government over the latter's new requirement in respect of the origin marking of Hong Kong products.

If the US refuses to withdraw the requirement and bilateral discussions fail to reach satisfactory outcomes, the HKSAR government said it will take action against the US in accordance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Mechanism.

In response to media enquiries about the US Secretary of State's recent remarks about the 12 Hong Kong residents who were arrested in the mainland, the HKSAR government said that the secretary has blatantly ignored basic facts.

"Those 12 individuals are all wanted persons suspected of committing serious crimes in Hong Kong. Instead of facing legal liability in Hong Kong, they have chosen to flee through illegal means to evade legal responsibility,” the spokesman said.

“We were shocked to hear the US Secretary say that they had committed no crimes,” he added.

(Source: Xinhua News Agency)

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