28 July 2023 – According to a Washington Post scoop today, the White House has barred Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee from attending the US-hosted Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference due to take place in San Francisco this November. The inter-governmental meeting involves high-level politicians from countries across the Asia and Pacific rim region.
In August 2020, the US Department of the Treasury sanctioned John Lee, and 10 other Hong Kong and Chinese officials “for being involved in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals under the authority of the National Security Law, as well as being involved in its development, adoption, or implementation”. The list of sanctioned individuals includes the previous Chief Executive Carrie Lam but John Lee has continued to support the National Security Law as Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and most recently increased the pressure on pro-democracy activists by placing a HK$1 million bounty on the heads of eight Hong Kongers who no longer live in Hong Kong.
However, the barring of John Lee does not stop other Hong Kong officials attending in his place.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington expressed their strong disapproval of the move. The Hong Kong government released a statement, calling on the United States to allow John Lee to attend the APEC meeting, stating, “The US is obliged to fulfil its basic responsibilities as a host to follow the rules and usual practices.”
A White House spokesperson said, “We’re looking forward to the participation of all APEC member delegations in accordance with US laws and regulations.”
In June, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and James McGovern (D-MA) sent a letter urging US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to not grant a sanctions waiver to John Lee to attend the APEC meeting.
The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation welcomes this decision from the United States government and calls on other countries, like the UK, to do the same.
Frances Hui, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
“We welcome the news that the White House will deny John Lee entry to the US in order to attend the APEC meeting in accordance with his sanctions terms. The twisted tactics of the Beijing-controlled Hong Kong government have no place in the United States and other democratic countries. Thank you to the United States for taking a stand for Hong Kong and the greater Hong Kong diaspora as we face the trauma of not being able to return to the city we call home.”