US to issue visa bans for Hong Kong officials

The sanctions come in response to Thursday’s guilty verdicts against 14 pro-democracy activists.
By Alex Willemyns for RFA
2024.05.31
Washington
US to issue visa bans for Hong Kong officials Police ask supporters to leave the entrance of West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts building during the hearing of the 47 pro-democracy activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law, in Hong Kong, China February 6, 2023.
Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The United States will impose visa bans against unnamed Hong Kong officials in response to Thursday’s guilty verdicts against 14 democracy activists on “subversion” charges, the State Department said Friday.

The Chinese city’s High Court found 14 leading pro-democracy activists guilty of subversion under the tough new National Security Law, which was passed into law in March, following a 118-day trial for 16 protesters who pleaded “not guilty” after arrests in 2021.

In a statement, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the United States was “deeply concerned” by the guilty verdicts for the pro-democracy activists and called for Hong Kong authorities to “immediately release these unjustly detained individuals.”

“The defendants were subjected to a politically motivated prosecution and jailed simply for peacefully participating in political activities protected under the Basic Law of Hong Kong,” Miller said, referring to the city’s governing law since the British handover in 1997.

Miller said the United States was “taking steps” to implement sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for the verdict under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which deals with people ineligible for entry into the United States.

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Lawmakers vote for Article 23 in the chamber of the Legislative Council after the conclusion of the readings of the Article 23 National Security Law, in Hong Kong on March 19, 2024. (Peter Parks/AFP)

The statement does not identify which Hong Kong officials would be targeted, and the State Department has a policy against commenting directly on the visa status of individuals due to privacy concerns.

The 14 activists found guilty on Thursday were part of a group of 47 protesters who were arrested by Hong Kong police in 2021, which drew international condemnation, including from U.S. lawmakers.

Of the 47, 31 pleaded guilty to the charge and are still awaiting sentencing on the charges that under March’s tough new laws carry up to life imprisonment. Two were acquitted on Thursday.

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Members of League of Social Democrats hold banner outside the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts in Hong Kong, Thursday, May 30, 2024, ahead of verdicts in national security case. The banner reads "Exercising Constitutional rights is not a crime." (Chan Long Hei/AP)

The sanctions were issued a day after U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell met with his Chinese counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu, for talks at the State Department in Washington.

According to a readout issued by the U.S. side on Friday, the two officials held a “candid and constructive discussion” on a range of topics “including areas of difference and areas of cooperation.” 

Campbell brought up China’s “destabilizing actions around Taiwan,” according to the readout, as well as U.S. concerns about Beijing’s alleged ongoing “support to Russia’s defense industrial base.”

He also raised America’s concerns about human rights abuses in China, “including in Hong Kong,” the readout said.

Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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Wangchuk
Jun 05, 2024 12:22 PM

Shame on the Hong Kong judges, prosecutors and police who convicted 14 HK citizens for exercising their constitutional right of free speech protected under the Basic Law and PRC Constitution. This is how democracy dies. This is how tyranny wins. We must always stand up for the rights of the oppressed no matter where the oppression occurs.