US urged to sanction John Lee, Chris Tang for rights violations

March 12, 2020 15:21
Pan-democratic lawmakers (from left) Charles Mok, Jeremy Tam and Kenneth Leung want the US government to activate as soon as possible the sanction mechanism under Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Photo: HKEJ

The United States should impose sanctions on Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu and Commissioner of Police Chris Tang Ping-keung for human rights violations in their handling of the anti-government protests last year, three pan-democratic lawmakers said.

The lawmakers urged the US government to activate as soon as possible the sanction mechanism under Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which the US Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law in November last year, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Kenneth Leung Kai-cheong representing the accounting profession, Charles Mok Nai-kwong representing the information technology functional constituency, and Jeremy Tam Man-ho from the Civic Party told a news conference on Wednesday that Lee, Tang and police commanders involved major clashes with anti-government protesters should be among the first batch of officials to be sanctioned under the US law.

The legislation requires the State Department to certify, at least annually, that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable US trading terms that have helped it maintain its position as a world financial center.

Under the law, the US government can impose sanctions against Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights violations.

Sanctions include barring such officials and their immediate family members from entering the US territory, and from engaging in transactions involving US property and interests.

The Hong Kong lawmakers said the Yuen Long attack on July 21 and the incident at Prince Edward MTR Station on Aug. 31 fit the sanction range covered by the act.

Tam said coming up with a list of Hong Kong officials to face US sanctions requires concrete evidence and as such, they said the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act can be referred to as a standard for the criteria for collecting evidence.

The three pan-democrats attended the US-Hong Kong Dialogue sponsored by the non-governmental organization World Affairs Council in San Francisco last week.

Other members of the city delegation were Executive Council members Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan and Martin Liao Cheung-kong, and Exco convenor Bernard Charnwut Chan.

Also attending the dialogue were Jonathan Fritz, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs responsible for China, Mongolia, and Taiwan coordination; and Hanscom Smith, the US Consulate General of Hong Kong and Macau.

In the press conference, Leung also revealed that the US government is set to issue a report on the human rights law and the US–Hong Kong Policy Act.

The government rejected the comments about Hong Kong in the 2019 US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which was issued on Wednesday.

The US report mentioned accusations of police brutality in Hong Kong, including the Aug. 31 beating of passengers by riot police on a train at Prince Edward MTR Station, RTHK reported.

The report also cited the alleged delay in police response to the Yuen Long attack, and the disqualification of youth activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung from the District Council elections in November.

In a statement issued early Thursday, the government said the HKSAR government “attaches the utmost importance to and is firmly committed to upholding human rights and various freedoms in Hong Kong”.

“The degree and extent of violence committed by radical protesters was unprecedented in Hong Kong, and it has seriously endangered people's personal safety, public order and security," a government spokesman said in the statement.

"Faced with this situation, the Hong Kong Police is duty-bound to take appropriate actions, including the use of necessary force, to restore law and order. In the process, police officers also faced threats of serious injuries or even death.” 

Foreign governments should not interfere in any form in Hong Kong's internal affairs, the spokesman added.

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