Bitter Trump could punish China and Hong Kong in event of US election defeat, sanctions expert warns

Bitter Trump could punish China and Hong Kong in event of US election defeat, sanctions expert warns

  • Elizabeth Rosenberg, former senior adviser to US Treasury Department, says lame-duck administration could lash out
  • Aggressive actions could be ‘grenade you throw as you’re walking out the door’

Hong Kong financial institutions could face especially aggressive sanctions from the US if President Donald Trump loses the election against Joe Biden in November, an international sanctions expert warned on Thursday.The Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which took effect in July in response to the national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong, allows Washington to sanction individuals and financial institutions it believes helped erode the city’s autonomy.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, director of the energy, economics, and security programme at the Centre for a New American Security, made her comments on Thursday, during a webinar held by the University of Hong Kong’s law school.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has until October 12 to present the list of sanctioned individuals to Congress. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin must also submit a list of non-US financial institutions that have knowingly conducted “significant transactions” with the individuals.

“[The treasury list] could come, if Biden is elected, in the lame-duck period for President Trump, who might be feeling particularly annoyed and frustrated and has a bone to pick with China or Hong Kong, and create the opportunity for some awfully aggressive actions as the grenade you throw as you’re walking out the door,” Rosenberg said.

The treasury department has between 30 and 60 days after the state department acts to publish its list, but Trump is not forced to impose sanctions on those listed.

Rosenberg, formerly a senior adviser at the US Treasury Department who helped develop and implement sanctions on countries such as Iran, Libya and Syria, said it was hard to know what the list would look like, given the “awfully unpredictable” nature of the Trump administration.