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U.S. will not invite sanctioned Hong Kong leader to APEC in November


Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, who faces sanctions in the U.S., will not be invited to San Francisco during November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

China News Service | China News Service | Getty Images

The United States will not invite Hong Kong’s chief executive, who faces U.S. sanctions, to visit San Francisco during November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, two congressional aides said on Friday.

The U.S. is set to host this year’s gathering of leaders of APEC, of which Hong Kong is a member. Hong Kong’s top official John Lee was placed under U.S. sanctions in 2020 because of his role in implementing what Washington deems a “draconian” Hong Kong national security law when he was the city’s security secretary.

Reuters reported in June that a group of lawmakers, including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, sent a letter to the U.S. State Department urging it to bar Lee from the U.S.

The Washington Post on Thursday reported the U.S. decision on Lee, citing U.S. officials, and on Friday two congressional aides confirmed to Reuters that the State Department had notified members of Congress that Lee would not be invited.

Rubio said on messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter, that it was the “right call,” even if the decision took longer than it should have.

“Hosting a sanctioned human rights violator who represses Hong Kongers is a nonstarter,” Rubio said.

In its 2020 designation of Lee, the U.S. Treasury Department said he had been involved in the “coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning” of people in the Chinese city who had protested against the national security law.

A State Department spokesperson, asked about the decision, said the participation of all delegations in APEC events will be “in accordance with U.S. laws and regulations and on the basis of the spirit and principles of APEC.”

“We will work with Hong Kong, China to ensure appropriate participation in San Francisco,” the spokesperson said, adding without giving details that U.S. President Joe Biden had begun sending invitations for the event.

China’s Embassy in Washington expressed Beijing’s “strong opposition” to the U.S. decision.

“This violates APEC rules, and breaks the commitments made by the U.S.,” Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said.

The APEC leaders summit is seen as a possible venue where Biden could hold bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the two countries seek to stabilize troubled relations.


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