White House says Trump has not ruled out sanctions on Chinese officials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump has not ruled out further sanctions on top Chinese officials that could come in addition to actions taken this week to punish China for its handling of Hong Kong, a White House National Security Council spokesman said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks aboutefforts to capture MS-13 leaders during a law enforcement briefing in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which Trump signed on Tuesday, allows him to impose sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese officials and financial institutions involved in the imposition of China’s new national security law in Hong Kong.

Bloomberg reported Trump had ruled out additional sanctions on top Chinese officials for now to avoid escalating tensions.

National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot noted Trump last week issued sanctions against Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials for their treatment of minority Uighur Muslims.

“In no way has he taken anything off the table with respect to further sanctions of party officials for actions in Hong Kong or on other issues. Any suggestion otherwise by anonymous sources is flat out wrong,” Ullyot said.

White House discussions are ongoing about potential targets for sanctions and no final decisions have been made, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Among names being pushed is Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who has backed implementation of the security law, the source said.

The New York Times reported later Wednesday that the Trump administration was considering a sweeping ban on travel to the United States by CCP members.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the legislation Trump signed and an executive order ending Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law were justified.

“General Secretary Xi Jinping made a choice to violate the Chinese Communist Party’s promises to Hong Kong that were made in U.N.-registered treaty. He didn’t have to do that and he made that choice,” Pompeo told reporters.

Pompeo noted on Twitter later on Wednesday that Trump said the United States would “place a special emphasis” on admitting Hong Kong residents as refugees. “We stand with the Hong Kong people,” Pompeo said.

Reporting by Steve Holland and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Alistair Bell, Leslie Adler and Edwina Gibbs