U.S. and Chinese flags are displayed at an American International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) booth in Beijing, China, May 28, 2019. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

The U.S. on Tuesday imposed sanctions on 14 senior Chinese officials for their alleged role in ousting four pro-democracy elected lawmakers in Hong Kong last month.

The asset-freezes and travel bans were imposed on 14 vice chairpersons of the National People’s Congress’ standing committee, the Chinese legislature’s top decision-making body.

Beijing last month disqualified four opposition legislators, causing an uproar among the other opposition lawmakers, who all promised to resign as well in response.

“Beijing’s unrelenting assault against Hong Kong’s democratic processes has gutted its Legislative Council, rendering the body a rubber stamp devoid of meaningful opposition,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement regarding the new sanctions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying promised China would respond to the U.S. with “vigorous countermeasures.”

“If Pompeo and his like continue with this last madness, they will only end up hurting themselves,” the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing, China’s top agency for Hong Kong, said in a statement.

The move comes after a year of pro-democracy uprisings in Hong Kong. In June, China passed a controversial national security law aimed at tightening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong, a measure pro-democracy critics say will erode the civil liberties of Hong Kong residents.

China claims that the national security law is necessary to crack down on separatism, subversion, terrorism, and foreign intervention in Hong Kong. The measure would also allow China’s state security agencies to operate in the territory.

Critics and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have warned that the law, which came after months of pro-democracy demonstrations among residents of the territory, will erase the “one country, two systems” arrangement between Hong Kong and Beijing and will subvert the freedoms currently enjoyed by Hong Kong residents, including the right to assembly, a free press, and a judiciary system independent of mainland China.

In August, the U.S. imposed a separate round of sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam along with ten other top officials over the national security law.

Mairead McArdle – www.nationalreview.com

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