Teresa Cheng plays down impact of anti-sanctions law

Justice minister Teresa Cheng has sought to play down concern about reports that Beijing plans to introduce anti-sanctions law to Hong Kong and the impact it could have on financial institutions here.

The law was introduced on the mainland in June to allow for counter measures against foreign governments’ sanctions on Chinese nationals or entities.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee will discuss later this month whether the mainland law should be adopted by Hong Kong as well.

In interviews with several newspapers that were published on Wednesday, Cheng said the anti-sanctions law is “strictly retaliatory” and will only be used to counter “unreasonable sanctions on China and Hong Kong by foreign governments”.

As long as no countries violated international laws by imposing any sanctions, nothing would happen, she said.

“I know some of us may be very concerned. But I think we shouldn’t be too worried for now,” the minister was quoted as saying.

Cheng did not say whether the anti-sanctions law would be inserted to annex three of the Basic Law – the same way it was for the national security law – saying it’s too early to discuss such specifics.

The lawmaker representing the Finance Sector, Ronick Chan, said he doesn’t foresee much impact on local financial institutions, but noted they might face criminal liabilities if they implement sanctions for foreign governments, or if they don’t execute China’s counter measures.

“I’d say banks in Hong Kong are generally familiar with complicated and tough situations in the past….I have confidence that there won’t be any substantial negative impact on our operating environment,” he told RTHK.

Chan said, though, he prefers to have the law brought in in by way of local legislation, so stakeholders can express views before it’s passed.

“The anti-sanctions law in China provides just a framework, without any details. If we have the chance to go through the local legislation, I think we will have more details about the law’s implementation going forward,” the lawmaker said.

Chan stressed that the Monetary Authority had said a year ago that unilateral sanctions imposed by foreign governments have no legal status in Hong Kong.