The U.S. sanctioned 24 Chinese officials involved in the implementation of stringent security laws in Hong Kong on Wednesday, days before the first scheduled meeting between top Chinese and American diplomats.
The sanctions were implemented according to the Trump administration’s Hong Kong Autonomy Act, in response to China’s decision to rewrite Hong Kong election laws to favor Beijing loyalists and likely bar pro-democracy candidates from running.
China Politburo member Wang Chen, who spearheaded the change to the election laws, is one of the officials sanctioned and the most senior Chinese leader targeted so far under the Autonomy Act.
“A stable, prosperous Hong Kong that respects human rights, freedoms, and political pluralism serves the interests of Hong Kong, mainland China, and the broader international community,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday. “The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong, and we will respond when the PRC fails to meet its obligations.”
China criticized the sanctions as evidence of a “cold-war mentality.”
“Those wearing colored lenses can easily lose sight of the right direction, and those entrenched in the Cold War mentality will bring harm to others and themselves,” China foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, in a statement reported by The New York Times.
Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan are scheduled to meet China’s top diplomats, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, in Alaska on Thursday for the first series of direct talks between high-ranking Chinese and American officials.
The meeting follows President Biden Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell’s remarks that the U.S. will not improve relations with China while the country is engaged in a trade war against Australia. China has placed $20 billion in bans and tariffs on Australian exports to the country.
“We have made clear that the US is not prepared to improve relations in a bilateral and separate context at the same time that a close and dear ally is being subjected to a form of economic coercion,” Campbell told The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday.
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