A statement issued by the department on Monday said the four would be banned from traveling to the U.S. and have any assets in the country blocked over their role in implementing the territory’s sweeping national security law, seen as heavily restricting free speech and opposition politics since its passage in June.
The U.S. has already imposed such sanctions on a number of officials, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Washington accuses Beijing of betraying a promise to allow the former British colony to retain its own civil liberties for 50 years after its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
“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,” the State Department said.
The four are: Li Jiangzhou, the deputy director of the Office for Safeguarding National Security established after the law was passed; head of the police National Security Division Edwina Law; police Senior Superintendent Steve Li Kwai-Wah; and deputy director of the central government’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Deng Zhonghua.
Monday’s announcement came as Hong Kong’s 19 pro-democracy lawmakers said they would resign en masse from the city’s legislative council if Beijing disqualifies any of them.
Unconfirmed reports have said that China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee was preparing to disqualify four legislators at a meeting this week, accusing them of filibustering meetings and violating their oaths of office.