Nov. 10 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has sanctioned four more Chinese government officials for aiding the Asian nation in implementing a draconian new national security law on Hong Kong that has been widely criticized as a tool to snuff out dissent in the former British colony.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that the four people blacklisted by the State Department and the Treasury on Monday were targeted for their connection to China's implementation of a national security law in July that outlaws secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign agencies to undermine the national security of the People's Republic of China.
The law was implemented following a year of mass pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong, and the United States and other Western countries. Human rights groups have decried it as a threat to the region's autonomy, which was promised by China when it was returned to its sovereignty from Britain in 1997.
Pompeo has described the law as the "death knell" to Hong Kong's promised autonomy, and the United States has previously sanctioned Chinese and Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's top politician, over the new law.
In July, President Donald Trump signed legislation to punish Chinese officials with sanctions and to end preferential trade treatment for Hong Kong.
Last month, the State Department also warned all financial institutions that they could be targeted with sanctions for doing business with those who have been blacklisted.
China has responded with retaliatory measures and sanctions of its own against U.S. lawmakers and heads of nonprofit organizations while repeatedly denouncing the United States for interfering in its internal affairs -- accusations the Hong Kong government repeated Tuesday.
"This is blatant and grossly outrageous -- I would use the word barbaric -- interference in Hong Kong's internal affairs, in our motherland's internal affairs, in the Central People's Government's internal affairs," Hong Kong Chief secretary Matthew Cheung told reporters in a press briefing. "This is absolutely unreasonable and unacceptable."
Li Jiangzhou, deputy director of the Office for Safeguarding National Security; Edwina Lam, head of the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force; Steve Li Kwai-Wah, senior superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force; and Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, were targeted with sanctions on Monday.
"These individuals will be barred from traveling to the United States and their assets within the jurisdiction of the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons will be blocked," Pompeo said in the statement. "These actions underscore U.S. resolve to hold accountable key figures that are actively eviscerating the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and undermining Hong Kong's autonomy."
Since it has been implemented, the law has been used by Hong Kong police to arrest opposition politicians and activists, as well as civilians who waved pro-Hong Kong independence flags at protests. On Thursday, the Hong Kong Police Force launched a hotline for residents to anonymously report those who they believe have broken the national security law.