The administration of United States President Donald Trump on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and 10 other senior officials in the territory and mainland China over their alleged roles in curtailing political freedoms and suppressing dissent, Reuters reported.

The sanctioned officials will have all property in the US seized and financial assets frozen, according to BBC.

The sanctions were imposed under an executive order signed by Trump seeking to punish China for the repression in Hong Kong. The move came after Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong in June to grant security agencies expansive powers.

“The Chinese Communist Party has made [it] clear that Hong Kong will never again enjoy the high degree of autonomy that Beijing itself promised to the Hong Kong people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, according to The New York Times. “The United States will therefore treat Hong Kong as ‘one country, one system,’ and take action against individuals who have crushed the Hong Kong people’s freedoms.”

Besides Lam, the sanctions target Hong Kong Police Commissioner Chris Tang and his predecessor Stephen Lo, Hong Kong’s Secretary of Security John Ka-chiu and Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng. Among six other officials targeted were Luo Huining, mainland China’s top official in Hong Kong, and Xia Baolong, the director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing.

The Treasury Department said Beijing’s imposition of the draconian national security legislation had undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and set “the groundwork for censorship of any individuals or outlets that are deemed unfriendly to China.”

The department directly accused Lam of “implementing Beijing’s policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes”. “In 2019, Lam pushed for an update to Hong Kong’s extradition arrangements to allow for extradition to the mainland, setting off a series of massive opposition demonstrations in Hong Kong,” it added.

A ‘barbaric interference’, says Hong Kong

The Hong Kong government on Saturday said the US move was a “blatant and barbaric interference in the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China, using Hong Kong as a pawn”. Lam’s spokesperson said she “would not be intimidated”.

“Speaking on behalf of her senior colleagues who are being targeted, the Chief Executive Mrs Carrie Lam said that we are discharging an honourable duty to safeguard national security, protecting the life and interests of not only the 7.5 million (75 lakh) Hong Kong people but also the 1.4 billion (140 crore) Mainlanders,” a statement from Lam’s office said, according to BBC.

Luo Huining, Beijing’s representative in Hong Kong and among those sanctioned, said the measures were ridiculous. Hong Kong Commerce Secretary Edward Yau called the sanctions disproportionate and warned of retaliation against US businesses in the region.

New security law

In June, China’s Parliament passed a national security legislation for Hong Kong that would override local laws and give sweeping powers to security agencies. The unprecedented law is aimed at curbing protests – which rocked Hong Kong last year – and prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference”, and terrorism. These charges are often used in the Chinese mainland to stifle dissidents and political opponents. The new law will also allow China’s security personnel to operate in Hong Kong.

Under the new law, certain political views and symbols, including those showing support for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet independence, are now illegal.

The new legislation came after people in Hong Kong held anti-Beijing protests for months from June 2019. China said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong. Critics say China’s law ends the freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement when British rule ended in 1997.