Democratic and Republican US lawmakers urged the State Department on Wednesday to bar the embargoed Hong Kong leader from visiting San Francisco in November during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
The United States will host this year’s meeting of APEC leaders, of which Hong Kong is a member. But Hong Kong’s top official, John Lee, was placed under US sanctions in 2020 for his role in enforcing what Washington considers a “draconian” Hong Kong national security law when he was the city’s defense secretary.
In Lee’s 2020 post, the US Treasury Department said he engaged in “coercion, arrest, detention or imprisonment” in a Chinese city where he protested the law.
“We are dismayed to learn that the Biden administration plans to lift sanctions against Chief Executive Lee and allow him to enter the United States to attend the APEC meeting,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio and other lawmakers said in a copy of the letter. State Department seen by Reuters.
The letter was co-signed by Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern and Republican Representative Chris Smith.
“Calling a sanctioned human rights abuser is an insult to the Chinese Communist Party and all those persecuted by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its proxies in Hong Kong,” the lawmakers wrote.
Feb. In a written response to questions following testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the 9th, it quoted Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman as telling senators that the department plans to welcome Lee to the United States for the APE.
“The United States would like to invite Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee to attend APEC. As a 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 and maintain economic stability,” Sherman wrote, according to his response to the committee.
“However, the invitation to APEC will undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and will not absolve individuals of their role in destroying Hong Kong’s protected rights and freedoms,” Sherman said.
The US is looking forward to hosting APEC, but invitations to the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week are “not finalized at this time”, the State Department told Reuters.
U.S. persons or companies are generally prohibited from doing business with people on Washington’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, making it difficult to enter the U.S. unless exempted. The State Department may also issue visa restrictions, but because of the confidentiality of visas, it usually does not disclose who is subject to the restrictions.
Lee told media in Hong Kong last month that the US had an obligation to invite the city to the 21-member APEC leaders’ meeting.
“APEC is an international organization. It does not belong to any country or economy. Under APEC’s rules and traditions, the organizer has the responsibility to invite members,” Lee said, without saying whether he planned to travel to the meeting.
Frances Hui of the Hong Kong Foundation for Freedom Committee said on Wednesday that allowing Lee to visit the United States would send the wrong signal to Chinese authorities and rights abusers around the world.
“It sends a terrible message that there is little or nothing to do with violations,” Hui said.
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