Expats say Hong Kong Chief unwelcome in US

Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee gives a speech following a swearing-in ceremony to inaugurate the city's new government in Hong Kong on July 1, 2022. [AP Photo]

Hong Kong expatriates are welcoming a reported decision by the U.S government to bar Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee from attending an economic conference in the United States because of his role in crushing the city’s pro-democracy movement.

The Biden administration’s decision was first reported by The Washington Post, which, citing unidentified U.S. officials, said he would be barred from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in San Francisco in November.

Lee has been the subject of U.S. sanctions since 2020 for his role as Hong Kong’s top police official during the crackdown, in which dozens of pro-democracy activists were arrested. He was named chief executive of the city last year.

VOA contacted the State Department for confirmation of the decision but didn’t receive any response by the time of publication.

Anna Kwok, executive director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a nonprofit organization founded in 2019 by Hong Kongers, told VOA the organization welcomes the Biden administration's decision and hopes the U.S. remains firm in opposing human rights violations in Hong Kong.

"The White House has made the right decision to bar John Lee, a sanctioned human rights abuser, to protect the integrity of human-right sanctioning as one of the accountability mechanisms," she said.

"While the decision is welcomed by the Hong Kong community, we would like to stress the time it took for the decision to be made and publicized. It should be the default to not issue sanction waivers to human rights abusers for a meeting on economic coordination."

The Chinese government demanded the U.S. reverse its decision and lift the "illegal and unreasonable" sanctions on Lee.

"We demand that the U.S. side immediately correct its wrong move, lift the sanctions against the chief executive and other officials of the [special administrative region], fulfill the due responsibility as APEC host, and invite Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu to the meeting," said Mao Ning, the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

"APEC meetings do not belong to any country or economy," the office said in a statement Friday.

Lee later said in a press briefing that the city would attend the meeting according to APEC rules and guidelines, saying he hoped that the host of the meeting could handle it in accordance with such norms.

Kwok said, "China’s demand screams the Chinese government’s inability to understand its standing in international relations. China should not overestimate its leverage to conduct economic coercion on other countries, including the United States, and should know its blatant human rights abuses and transnational repressive behaviors come with their costs.

"China also keeps pushing the bar: if the international community doesn’t stand its ground, China will keep expanding its influence globally while repressing its people transnationally."