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Hong Kong privacy chief says US 'doxxed' sanctioned officials

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Hong Kong's privacy chief criticised the US Treasury Department for "doxxing" Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials by releasing their personal information as part of its sanctions on them.

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong's privacy chief criticised the US Treasury Department for "doxxing" Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other officials by releasing their personal information as part of its sanctions on them.

"The disclosure of the data of the persons concerned by the US Department of the Treasury is obviously excessive and unnecessary," Acting Privacy Commissioner Tony Lam said in a statement, adding that using or reproducing the addresses, passport numbers and other data could be a crime. "It amounts to doxxing."

The US said Friday it is placing sanctions on 11 Chinese officials and their allies in Hong Kong over their roles in curtailing political freedoms in the former UK colony. Beijing imposed a national security law that has undermined the city's autonomy and infringed on the rights of residents, it said.

The chief executive was targeted for her role in implementing Beijing's policies "of suppression of freedom and democratic processes", according to the US statement.

The Trump administration has escalated pressure on several fronts against China's growing role on the world stage, which has become a key campaign issue in the upcoming US election. President Donald Trump has threatened to take action since Chinese officials imposed the sweeping law on Hong Kong in June.

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China's implementation of the law, and the reaction of major trading partners who have criticised it, could have a substantial impact on a Hong Kong economy already battered by months of historic anti-government protests and coronavirus restrictions.

The sanctions also emboldened critics of the Hong Kong government elsewhere, with a UK lawmaker reviving calls for curbs on it.

In Hong Kong, the reaction has been a chorus of criticism from local officials, with Carrie Lam's government calling the move "shameless and despicable", while Beijing's Liaison Office in the city said that Washington had "miscalculated".

The sanctioned individuals include Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China's State Council, and Chris Tang, commissioner of the Hong Kong Police Force.

"The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong and we will use our tools and authorities to target those undermining their autonomy," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The targeted people will have any property and assets in the US frozen. But it's not clear whether any of the sanctioned officials will be affected financially. Luo Huining, the director of the Liaison Office, said that he doesn't have any assets or property in any foreign countries.

NO OBLIGATION

Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the city's banking regulator, said local banks have no obligation to follow US sanctions under Hong Kong law and the lenders should treat customers fairly in assessing whether to continue to provide services to an individual.

Another regulator, the Securities and Futures Commission, said that in considering the implications of the sanctions, intermediaries are expected to "carefully assess any legal, business and commercial risks that they may be exposed to", adding that it expects any response to the restrictions will be necessary, fair and in the interest of the "integrity of the market".

The regulator said it is "monitoring closely the impact that the sanctions may have on the operation of intermediaries, the interests of investors and financial stability and orderliness of the markets in Hong Kong".

Hong Kong's acting privacy commissioner said he would write to the US authorities to express disappointment over the release of the data. The chief executive said in a Facebook post that she may cancel her US visa, and suggested that the US Treasury may have obtained her information from a visa application in 2016, without updating her address. She said her US visa is valid until 2026.

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