US sanctions 'may escalate'

Top News | Michael Shum 11 Aug 2020

The United States may take further actions against Hong Kong as Sino-US tensions escalate before the US presidential election, lawmakers and commentators speculate.

That could include expanding the sanction list and pressuring US financial institutions in the city to close the bank accounts, insurance policies and credit cards of particular targets, Liberal Party's Felix Chung Kwok-pan said yesterday.

"Hong Kong is not in a powerful enough position to retaliate against the US sanctions, and this will depend on how the central government responds," Chung said.

On the other hand, commentator Lau Siu-kai said he expects US President Donald Trump to escalate actions against Hong Kong due to the dire circumstances of his presidential bid.

"There is still a possibility that Trump will escalate action against Hong Kong to incite more confrontations between Beijing and Washington due to the dire situation in his reelection bid," he added.

But Lau said the sanctions should have a limited impact as "the US is hoping to achieve its political goal without paying a hefty price."

However, Lau disagreed with Chung, saying that there are many options for Hong Kong to choose from in retaliating against US sanctions.

"There is a lot of trade in Hong Kong that uses US dollars for transactions, which supports the status of the US dollar as the international currency," Lau said.

"But Beijing has already seen through the fact that Washington is trying to get China to overreact in order to help Trump in his reelection campaign. Therefore, I think the retaliation measures will be more restrained and proportional."

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said "Beijing has a lot to think about before rolling out retaliatory measures against sanctions imposed on mainland and Hong Kong officials, as the US is still reviewing progress on the first phase of its trade deal," To said.

He also said pan-democrats will stay united in deciding whether to join the transitional legislature, with keeping the camp's critical one third minority a key consideration, as the government may use the coming year to tighten Hongkongers' freedoms.

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