Flying Service on US sanctions list

Top News | Michael Shum and agencies 23 Dec 2020

Hong Kong's Government Flying Service has been included by the United States in a new military end user sanctions list, restricting its purchase of American machinery and technology.

The GFS has been sanctioned as part of the first tranche of 103 entities with alleged military ties, which include 58 Chinese and 45 Russian companies.

The sanction came months after flight tracking data showed the GFS flew surveillance flights to track 12 Hongkongers during their failed attempt to flee from Hong Kong to Taiwan in a speedboat on August 23.

The flying service was accused of notifying mainland officers about the 12, who had been charged and released on bail for protest-linked crimes and intercepted in mainland waters off Nine-pin Islands. The service refused to release any operation details.

All 12 are detained on the mainland, 10 of whom have been charged.

The current GFS fleet - including seven helicopters and four fixed-wing aircraft - were not manufactured in the US, but by French, Canadian and Austrian companies. All American-manufactured aircrafts that served the GFS were retired before 2002.

The sanctions list also includes seven subordinate entities of state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation and eight under Aero Engine Corporation, also solely owned by China.

Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China was not on the list. But Shanghai Aircraft Design and Research Institute, which designs COMAC planes, and Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which manufactures them, are on the list.

The US Bureau of Industry and Security said Washington has determined that these companies are "military end users" subject to control in the Export Administration Regulations.

A license will be required to export or transfer designated items to the listed entities, the bureau added.

This comes as the US government grows increasingly concerned about China's "military-civil fusion," a policy that aims to build up its military might and technological development.

Chinese foreign affairs ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Beijing resolutely opposed the list and called on the US to stop "erroneous actions."

"The US has been abusing the concept of national security in order to crack down on foreign companies," Wang said.

In Hong Kong, CK Hutchison Holdings distanced itself from Hutchison Optel, which is included in the list.

"CK Hutchison Group sold all its shares in Hutchison Optel in 2015. As a result, the group no longer has any ownership or relation with the stated company," the group wrote in a statement.

Separately, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced additional restrictions for the issuance of visas for Chinese officials repressing religious practitioners, ethnic minority groups, dissidents and others.

He also called on Beijing to release Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, along with other activists detained in China.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com



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