The United States will not invite Hong Kong’s chief executive, who faces US sanctions, to visit San Francisco during November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
John Lee, Hong Kong’s top official, was placed under US sanctions in 2020 because of his role in implementing what Washington deems a “draconian” national security law when he was the city’s security secretary.
Two congressional aides confirmed on Friday that the state department had notified members of Congress that Lee would not be invited, after the Washington Post reported on the decision on Thursday.
In June a group of lawmakers, including Republican senator Marco Rubio, sent a letter to the state department urging it to bar Lee from the US.
Rubio said on 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 Hongkongers is a nonstarter,” Rubio wrote.
In its 2020 designation of Lee, the US treasury department said he had been involved in the “coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning” of people in the Chinese autonomous city who had protested against the national security law.
A state department spokesperson said the participation of all delegations in Apec events will be “in accordance with US laws and regulations and on the basis of the spirit and principles” of the organisation.
“We will work with Hong Kong, China to ensure appropriate participation in San Francisco,” the spokesperson said, adding that the US president, Joe Biden, had begun sending invitations for the event.
China’s embassy in Washington expressed Beijing’s “strong opposition” to the US decision.
“This violates Apec rules and breaks the commitments made by the US,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said.
The Apec leaders summit is seen as a possible venue where Biden could hold bilateral talks with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, as the two countries seek to stabilise troubled relations.