China's top legislature and Hong Kong's political leaders and scholars on Thursday shrugged off the United States' latest sanctions over Hong Kong's electoral system overhaul, saying they will not flinch from the despicable interference.
The National People's Congress on Thursday strongly condemned the gross interference by the US. In a statement, it stressed that as the highest organ of State power, the NPC has the unquestionable authority and constitutional duty to improve Hong Kong's election system.
The NPC will continue to fulfill its statutory duty to safeguard national interests and maintain Hong Kong's constitutional order, it said. The NPC will also continue to provide legal protection for cracking down on forces supporting "Hong Kong independence", implementing "patriots administering Hong Kong" and ensuring the HKSAR's long-term prosperity and stability.
A day earlier, the US government announced sanctions against 24 officials from the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The officials include 14 vice-chairpersons of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which drafted the election system improvements, Hong Kong member of the NPC Standing Committee of the Tam Yiu-chung and key Hong Kong police officers in charge of national security protection.
Tam, who was put on the US sanctions list for the second time this year, stressed that no matter the pretext, no country is entitled to interfere in Hong Kong affairs, which are purely China's internal affairs.
The sanctions imposed by the US include restrictions on banking, loans from US financial institutions, buying property or dealing with US entities. Tam slammed the act of pressuring financial institutions as "shameful".
He said he will continue his work in the NPC Standing Committee and serve the country and the HKSAR with a full dedication.
Replying to media inquiries, the Hong Kong Police Force said in a statement that the US government is attempting to interfere with the police's law enforcement role by exerting political pressure.
The police force will not yield to it and will unswervingly safeguard the safety of the HKSAR and the nation, the statement said.
Stanley Ng Chau-pei, president of Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said US politicians' accusations over the HKSAR's electoral improvements are groundless and their threats to Hong Kong society will never succeed.
Rebutting the US claim that the electoral changes will harm Hong Kong's democracy, Ng said the improvements aim at expanding public participation in the HKSAR's administrative bodies. It actually represents the progress of democracy.
In keeping with the decision by the National People's Congress, the Election Committee, which chooses the city's chief executive, will be expanded from the current 1,200 seats to 1,500 and the number of Legislative Council members will be increased from the current 70 to 90.
Legal pundit Richard Cullen, visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Law, said he was extremely disappointed in the US sanctions, which he called an abusive outreach of extraterritorial power.
Cullen said some US leaders ignore the truth that Hong Kong has returned to the motherland and regard the HKSAR as part of their own soil, over which they have special rights to point fingers at the region's administration.
He cautioned that such hostility comes at a cost to the US itself and will only lead to a zero-sum situation.