It’s been a year since the People’s Republic of China, the PRC, started implementing the National Security Law in Hong Kong. That law and other recent legislative changes are part of a larger effort from Beijing to shrink the space for freedoms that had been guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. The National Security Law has resulted in a further deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong.
In a statement marking the National Security Law’s first anniversary, Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that since protests began in 2019, local authorities have arrested thousands for speaking out against government policies with which they disagreed; journalists have been arrested for doing their jobs; and Hong Kong authorities have mounted a persistent and politically motivated campaign against the free press.
“Beijing has chipped away at Hong Kong’s reputation of accountable, transparent governance and respect for individual freedoms, and has broken its promise to leave Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy unchanged for 50 years,” said Secretary Blinken.
In the face of Beijing’s repression and stifling of Hong Kong’s democratic institutions and processes, the United States has taken action. The Department of State has imposed sanctions against seven PRC officials – deputy directors of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the PRC’s main platform for projecting its influence in Hong Kong. The U.S. action freezes their assets for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
In addition, the U.S. Departments of State, Treasury, Homeland Security and Commerce issued a business advisory warning U.S. businesses about the emerging risks to their operations and activities because of the National Security Law and other legislative changes in Hong Kong that undermine the rule of law.
“Developments over the last year in Hong Kong present clear, operational, financial, legal, and reputational risks for multinational firms,” the State Department wrote in a statement. The risks include potential electronic surveillance and lack of data privacy; reduced access to information; potential retaliation against companies for their compliance with U.S. sanctions; and the possible arrest of individuals doing business in Hong Kong under the National Security Law.
Secretary Blinken said in a tweet that the new sanctions against PRC officials and the business advisory show that the United States “will continue to speak out for Hong Kong and promote accountability for Beijing’s broken promises and repressive acts.”