In a statement on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order that would see a national emergency designation with sweeping sanctions power further extended, stating that moves made by Beijing to tighten control over Hong Kong have threatened the country’s national security and interests.
The emergency designation was initially declared on July 14 last year by his predecessor Donald Trump.
“The situation with respect to Hong Kong, including recent actions taken by the People’s Republic of China to fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” Biden wrote in a statement announcing his decision to extend the national emergency.
“For this reason, the national emergency declared on July 14, 2020, must continue in effect beyond July 14, 2021.”
The national emergency declaration, invoked under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, gives the president sweeping powers to impose a variety of sanctions on external entities deemed to constitute a significant threat to the US.
Biden’s latest announcement would see the emergency designation remain in place for at least one more year.
The original executive order had granted US government officials the right to impose sanctions on individuals deemed to be supporting the implementation of the National Security Law and suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong.
The order had also ended cultural and academic exchange programmes with Hong Kong and China, suspended preferential treatment of Hong Kong passport holders, placed restrictions on travel and immigration, barred the exporting of arms and police equipment to Hong Kong, and implemented a number of other restrictions.
The US sanctioned 11 Hong Kong government officials, including chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah in August last year over the Beijing-imposed national security law in Hong Kong.
Under the sanctions, family members of the sanctioned individuals will be restricted from entering the US. Individuals on the list may also be denied banking services and access to credit cards.
As in the case of Lam, she admitted last year that she had been unable to access banking services since the US blocked American individuals and companies from doing business with her, forcing her to stockpile cash at home.
The list of sanctioned officials had been expanded in November last year to include PRC and Hong Kong officials whose actions have reduced Hong Kong’s autonomy, including 14 vice-chairs of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and officials in the Hong Kong Police Force’s national security division, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the Office for Safeguarding National Security.