EXCLUSIVE – MPs slam US plan to invite sanctioned Hong Kong leader to APEC

EXCLUSIVE – MPs slam US plan to invite sanctioned Hong Kong leader to APEC

Democratic and Republican US lawmakers on Wednesday urged the State Department to exclude the Hong Kong leader, who is under US sanctions, from visiting San Francisco during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.

The United States will host the APEC Leaders’ Meeting this year, of which Hong Kong is a member. But senior Hong Kong official John Lee was placed under US sanctions in 2020 when he was the city’s security minister for his role in enforcing what Washington considers “tough” national security law on Hong Kong.

In Lee’s 2020 designation, the US Treasury said he was involved in the “coercion, arrest, detention, or imprisonment” of people in the Chinese city who protested the law.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and the other lawmakers said in a copy of a letter sent to the State Department, seen by Reuters.

The letter was signed by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern and Republican Representative Chris Smith.

“Calling punished human rights violators is an insult to all those who are being persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Republic of China and their proxies in Hong Kong,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter quotes comments from Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, who told senators, in a written response to questions that followed testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 9, that the department was planning to receive Lee to the United States for the APE conference.

“The United States intends to invite Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. As host, we believe it is important to promote regional economic dialogue and for the United States and the People’s Republic of China to work together to address the global macro economy,” Sherman wrote, according to the text of her response to the panel. Maintain economic stability.

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“However, APEC’s call does not absolve individuals of their role in undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and undermining the rights and freedoms protected in Hong Kong,” Sherman said.

The State Department told Reuters that the United States is looking forward to hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, but that invitations to attend APEC Economic Leaders Week “have not been finalized at this time.”

US persons or entities are generally prohibited from doing business with persons on Washington’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), making entry into the US difficult unless a waiver is issued. The State Department can also issue visa restrictions, but due to the secrecy of visas, they usually do not disclose who the restrictions were imposed on.

Li told media in Hong Kong last month that the United States had an obligation to invite the city to attend the 21-member meeting of APEC leaders.

“APEC is an international organization. It does not belong to any country or economy. Under the rules and agreements of APEC, the organizer is responsible for inviting members,” he told me, without saying if he planned to go to the traveling meeting.

Frances Hui of the Hong Kong Foundation’s Freedom Committee said on Wednesday that Lee’s permission to visit the United States would send the wrong signal to Chinese officials and rights abusers around the world.

“It sends a terrible message that it costs little or nothing to commit abuse,” Hui said.

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