Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has backed legislation allowing retaliatory sanctions after the US and other Western governments punished city officials over the ongoing crackdown on democracy activists.
Ms Lam said the anti-foreign sanctions law should be adopted in Hong Kong through local legislation, rather than imposed by Beijing, and added that she has told the Chinese government her views.
Separately on Tuesday, the pro-democracy Professional Teachers’ Union — the city’s largest single-industry trade union with 95,000 members — said it has disbanded because the “social and political environment has changed in recent years”.
The disbandment came after the government severed ties with the union last week and accused it of spreading anti-Beijing and anti-government sentiment.
The cutting of ties came hours after Chinese state media called the union a “malignant tumour” that should be eradicated.
China implemented a broad anti-sanctions law in June. Anyone hit with retaliatory sanctions could be subject to visa restrictions, have their assets seized or frozen and be banned from doing business with any Chinese company or individual in China.
The law comes after the US issued sanctions on dozens of Chinese and Hong Kong officials — including Ms Lam — over their role in suppressing Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“There are external forces, or foreign governments or Western media, which would make use of the opportunity to weaken our international financial centre status as well as a weakening confidence in Hong Kong,” she said.
Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong last year, aiming to crack down on dissent following months of anti-government protests in the city that at times descended into violence.
More than 100 pro-democracy figures have been arrested under the national security law.
Critics have condemned the crackdown on political dissent, saying the former British colony is losing the freedoms it was promised when it was handed over to Chinese control in 1997.
This year, Hong Kong changed its election laws to reduce the number of directly elected legislators and give a largely pro-Beijing committee the leeway to nominate members aligned with Beijing.