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Hong Kong leader says won't take U.S. sanctions against her to heart

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday she was not too bothered about U.S. sanctions against her but the Chinese-ruled city will complain to the World Trade Organization (WTO) about a new U.S. requirement on Hong Kong-made products.

The United States this month imposed sanctions on Lam and other current and former Hong Kong and mainland officials whom Washington accuses of curtailing political freedom in the financial hub.

“Despite some inconvenience in my personal affairs, it is nothing I would take to heart,” Lam told a weekly news conference.

“We will continue to do what is right for the country and for Hong Kong.”

The sanctions came in response to China’s imposition of a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous city after prolonged anti-China, pro-democracy protests last year.

The legislation punishes anything China considers secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison and has drawn criticism from Western countries that worry the law will end the freedoms promised when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets of the officials targeted and bar Americans from doing business with them.

Lam said that while she could not travel to the United States herself, her government would continue to promote Hong Kong to U.S. businesses.

The U.S. government has also required goods made in the former British colony for export to the United States to be labelled as made in China after Sept. 25.

Lam said Hong Kong and China were separate WTO members and Hong Kong would lodge a complaint against the U.S. decision.

The Hong Kong government initially denounced the U.S. sanctions as “shameless and despicable” and “blatant and barbaric” interference in China’s internal affairs.

Beijing and Lam’s government have defended the national security law as necessary for the city’s stability and prosperity, and they said imposing it was China’s legitimate right.

Asked about the international community’s criticism of last week’s arrest of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai, and the search of his Apple Daily newsroom by some 200 police officers, Lam said she could not comment on individual cases, but warned of “double standards” in concerns expressed by other countries.

She said the government’s decision to postpone elections for the city’s legislature for a year amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases was criticised by countries that did not level similar criticism of other governments that postponed votes.

Reporting by Clare Jim and Yanni Chow; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Robert Birsel

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