The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the leader of Hong Kong after forcing Chinese internet giants TikTok and WeChat to end all US operations in a dual diplomatic and trade offensive expected to develop ahead of the election American.
In the toughest U.S. action against Hong Kong since Beijing imposed a security crackdown on the territory, the Treasury Department said it was freezing U.S. assets of Chief Executive Officer Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials officials.
The move criminalizes any US financial transaction with the 11 officials, including the Hong Kong police commissioner, its security secretary and the top Chinese official in the international financial center.
“Today’s actions send a clear message that the actions of the Hong Kong authorities are unacceptable,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said China’s security law – which prohibits subversion and other alleged offenses in Hong Kong – violates promises made by China before Britain surrendered the territory in 1997.
“The United States supports the people of Hong Kong,” Pompeo said.
The Treasury Department said Lam “is directly responsible for the implementation of Beijing’s policy of suppressing freedom and democratic processes.”
The security law was imposed at the end of June, following massive pro-democracy protests last year.
Authorities have since postponed the elections, citing the coronavirus pandemic, and, according to Beijing, have issued arrest warrants for six exiled pro-democracy activists.
Beijing wants Trump out?
The US measures come three months before the November 3 election in which Trump, who is behind rival Joe Biden in the polls, is campaigning with an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.
William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said on Friday that China wants Trump to lose.
“We believe that China prefers that President Trump – whom Beijing considers unpredictable – not to be re-elected,” he said in a statement Friday.
As public disapproval grew for his handling of the COVID-19 crisis ravaging the United States, Trump has moved from his previous goal of reaching a trade deal with China to blame the country for the pandemic.
Late Thursday, Trump carried out previous threats to WeChat and TikTok – two apps with major audiences that U.S. officials say pose a threat to national security.
In an executive order, Trump gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with Chinese platforms, setting a deadline for a potential and pressured sale of TikTok to Microsoft.
The move also cast doubt on the US operations of WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, a powerful player in the video game industry and one of the richest companies in the world.
China has expressed outrage at the move, which comes as Trump also ramps up pressure on the trade and security fronts.
“To the detriment of the rights and interests of American users and businesses, the United States (…) carries out arbitrary political manipulation and repression,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. .
The new restrictions caused Tencent’s shares to drop as much as 10% at one point in Hong Kong trading, wiping out nearly $ 50 billion from its market capitalization.
Trump’s order says TikTok – whose kaleidoscopic streams of short video clips feature everything from hair coloring tutorials to dance routines and everyday jokes – could be used by China to track federal employee locations , build personal files for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.
TikTok, which has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing, said the order was “issued without due process.”
The app owned by China-based ByteDance pledged to “pursue all available remedies” to obtain what it called fair treatment.
WeChat is a messaging, social media, and electronic payment platform and is said to have over a billion users, many of whom prefer email.
Repercussions for the United States?
Daniel Castro, of the Foundation for Information Technology and Innovation, said US actions were likely to be counterproductive.
“There is no security justification for banning an app just because it is owned by a Chinese company,” Castro said.
“Claims of security risks must be supported by hard evidence, not unsubstantiated innuendos. US tech companies risk losing significant global market share if other countries follow a similar standard and block tech companies. US markets because of concerns about US government surveillance. “
Trump effectively set a mid-September deadline for TikTok to be acquired by an American company or banned in the United States, which has led Microsoft to speed up negotiations to buy it.
The TikTok mobile app has been downloaded approximately 175 million times in the United States and over a billion times worldwide.
The latest US actions follow a protracted battle against Huawei, the Chinese network and smartphone giant accused by the Trump administration of being a spy tool.
(This story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)