United States sanctions 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials over election law

Grant Boone
March 19, 2021

As the United States and China kick-start their first talks since Joe Biden became American President, White House (WH) National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan crossed wires, via Reuters, while signaling the tough talks with Beijing.

USA officials told reporters ahead of the trip that Blinken and Sullivan would emphasize US concerns over China's "increasingly aggressive activities across the Taiwan Strait" and other issues China considers internal matters, such as its treatment of Uyghur Muslims and control over Taiwan.

In a move that is likely to rattle the Chinese, Blinken announced late Tuesday that the U.S.is sanctioning 24 Chinese officials over an overhaul of election laws earlier this month, accusing Beijing of an effort to "unilaterally undermine Hong Kong's electoral system".

The White House has set low expectations for the meeting.

The summit follows a protracted deterioration in relations between Beijing and Washington under former US President Donald Trump, including the imposition of trade sanctions, mutual visa restrictions and technology bans.

Topics of discussion during the meeting in Anchorage are also expected to include North Korea's denuclearization, with the United States expecting China, which has been Pyongyang's primary diplomatic backer, to play a key role in the issue.

Blinken is visiting Japan and South Korea along with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a bid to fortify Washington's alliances in Asia, in a first overseas trip by top level members of President Joe Biden's administration.

The challenge for USA officials will be in balancing what Blinken has called a "complex relationship" that has significant stakes for combating the coronavirus pandemic and climate change given Beijing's status as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. While New Delhi has a litany of its own grievances with Beijing, it too would benefit if a "Cold War" between the USA and China is averted, much like the rest of the world that has found itself akin to the proverbial grass when two elephants fight.

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MPs demanded that the Government find out if millions of pounds of taxpayers" cash is being "used to underpin human rights abuses' via aid to China. The U.S. side has explicitly rejected that, calling it a one-off session.

"We're expecting much of these conversations will be pretty, pretty tough", a senior USA administration official told reporters in Alaska before the meeting began.

Both the USA and China have played down expectations for the talks in Alaska, which are set to run Thursday and Friday local time.

"We believe that it is important for the United States to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world", he said. At the same time, the United States hoped to discuss cooperation on global health and fighting climate change.

The largest group representing exiled Uighurs has written to Blinken urging him to demand that Beijing close its internment camps in the Xinjiang region, where United Nations experts say that more than 1 million members of the ethnic group and other Muslim minorities have been held.

Yang said China firmly opposed US interference in its internal affairs.

After Wang ended his comments, government handlers began to usher the media out of the conference room, but Blinken waved at them to stay as he added that the United States "is not perfect" but throughout history it has dealt with its challenges openly.

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