Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has credit card trouble after U.S. sanctions

Hong Kong’s leader said she’s having trouble using her credit cards after the U.S. imposed sanctions targeting Chinese officials and their allies in the city.

“As for myself, of course it will have a little bit of inconvenience here and there, because we have to use some financial services and we don’t know whether that will relate back to an agency that has some American business — and the use of credit cards is sort of hampered,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CGTN posted late Monday. “But those are really meaningless as far as I’m concerned.”

Lam was one of 11 officials sanctioned earlier this month by President Donald Trump for their roles in curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong, amid the implementation of new national security legislation imposed on the city by China in June.

“The most important thing is we feel honorable that we are, at this historic moment, being trusted by the central people’s government to enforce a piece of national law to safeguard national security,” Lam said. “The more that this attracts the critics of China to attack us, the more effective this piece of legislation is to achieve its intended objective.”

Spokespeople for Visa and Mastercard didn’t immediately reply to messages requesting comment outside of business hours.

China’s largest state-run banks operating in Hong Kong are taking tentative steps to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on officials in the city, Bloomberg reported last week, as they seek to safeguard their access to crucial dollar funding and overseas networks. Major lenders with operations in the U.S., including Bank of China Ltd., China Construction Bank Corp., and China Merchants Bank Co., have turned cautious on opening new accounts for the 11 sanctioned officials, people familiar said.

Lam on Tuesday was scheduled to hold her first weekly briefing following a summer recess for Hong Kong’s advisory Executive Council.

The press briefing comes after Hong Kong extended all existing COVID-19 related social distancing measures for a week — to Aug. 25 — as it continues to battle a third wave surge of virus cases. It will be the first time she has faced local media since the arrest last Monday of media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the national security legislation.

Lam is one of the most visible Chinese leaders in the struggle over Hong Kong’s future. Her attempt last year to pass a bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland prompted months of pro-democracy protests, and she has defended Beijing’s legal right to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and implement the security law.

The national security measures have fueled concerns about the state of Hong Kong’s autonomy from China, including freedoms of the press and the independence of its judicial system. Both have helped underpin Hong Kong’s reputation as a global financial hub.

Lai’s arrest has only further fueled rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. Other flash points include the trade war, Taiwan and Trump’s moves to ban popular Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat.

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