Looks like we’re done playing nice with the Chinese Communist Party, no matter how far its tentacles reach. Now that China has cracked down on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, primarily through its control over the city’s government, the White House has taken the same measures there that it has against Beijing. The Treasury Department announced personal sanctions against Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the police commissioner, the secretary for security, and others. As you would expect, the Hong Kong officials impacted by this move were less than pleased. (Associated Press)

The U.S. on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong officials, including the pro-China leader of the government, accusing them of roles in squashing freedom in the former British colony.

The Treasury Department announced sanctions on Carrie Lam, the leader of the government in Hong Kong, and other officials. The sanctions are the latest in a string of actions the Trump administration has taken targeting China as tensions between the two nations rise over trade disputes and the coronavirus.

The sanctions were authorized by an executive order that President Donald Trump signed recently to levy penalties against China for its efforts to curtail anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

Not all of the sanctions will have any immediate impact on the targeted officials. One of them responded to an AP request for comment by saying that he doesn’t have “a penny of assets abroad.” But he did offer to send Donald Trump one hundred dollars to freeze if he thought it would help. (Hey… at least the guy has a sense of humor about it.)

Some analysts are taking this as a signal that President Trump is taking a tough stance against the CCP to bolster his reelection chances, and there may be an element of truth to that. The White House has been flexing its muscle in the South China Sea recently and also going after TikTok and WeChat.

But there’s also a lot more to the situation than that. What we appear to be seeing here is a sea change in terms of America’s relationship with China, not Hong Kong. The reason is that the “old Hong Kong” we were used to under the One Nation, Two Systems agreement between China and Great Britain is essentially gone. While the pro-democracy movement is still as active as it can be in the city under the circumstances, the government has completely ripped off the mask at this point. Carrie Lam and her senior officials have long been the face of the CCP far more than any sort of representation of the will of the people of Hong Kong. On the best of days, she was little more than a mouthpiece for Beijing.

Her response to the sanctions offered even more proof that the days of semi-autonomous rule in Hong Kong are over.

That statement is little more than a case of parroting the party line coming out of the mainland. All this talk of national security is simply a cover story for the fact that any thoughts of autonomy will not be tolerated and Hong Kong is being folded into the rest of the CCP’s web. And the reference by Lam to how the crackdown in her city is also intended to ensure the security of “the 1.4 billion mainlanders” is quite telling as well. Notice, she doesn’t refer to “China” as a separate entity anymore, but simply “the mainland.”

The reality is that Xi Jinping has been calling the shots there for a long time, but now he doesn’t have to hide behind the curtain to do it. And given that the west has zero intention of going to war with China over this, the game is pretty much over. Hopefully, some of the democracy activists can make it out of Hong Kong and take up Great Britain on their offer of citizenship and residency before the doors slam closed entirely.