HK chief says city respects rule of law, but there is no 'legal basis' to act on Western unilateral sanctions over Russian yacht
Published: Oct 11, 2022 08:04 PM
The night view of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

The night view of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) stressed on Tuesday that Hong Kong honors the rule of law and will follow any resolution of the United Nations, but it will not act on Western sanctions when there is no legal basis after the US criticized Hong Kong for allowing a luxury yacht connected to sanctioned Russian oligarch to dock in the city last week. 

The SAR government will comply with any United Nations resolution on sanctions. However,  measures taken only by particular countries have no legal basis in Hong Kong, therefore, the government will not take any action on them, said John Lee Ka-chiu, Chief Executive of HKSAR, at a media session before the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

Lee's remarks were made when asked to comment on US' recent concerns that Hong Kong is increasingly being used as a place to avoid sanctions, mainly by Russian oligarchies and companies.

US State Department spokesperson said in a statement Monday that "the possible use of Hong Kong as a safe haven by individuals evading sanctions from multiple jurisdictions further calls into question the transparency of the business environment," days after a luxury yacht connected to Russian tycoon Alexey Mordashov, who was sanctioned by the US, UK and the European Union in February, docked in Hong Kong, reported AP. 

 "We cannot do anything that has no legal basis. We will comply with UN sanctions — that is our system, that is our rule of law," Lee said.  

As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong has no legal obligation to enforce unilateral sanctions of Western countries, Tian Feilong, a legal expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

"The sanctions imposed by the US, the UK and the EU on Russia due to Ukraine crisis are unilateral sanctions based on the domestic laws of these countries, therefore they have no effect under international law," he said. 

But instead, if the UN Security Council makes a sanctions resolution, all member states and China's HKSAR are obliged to implement it, he added. 

In a statement posted on Sunday, the government said that it has been implementing and enforcing sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, but it does not implement, nor does it have the legal authority to take action on unilateral sanctions imposed by other jurisdictions.

Tian noted that the US may impose on Hong Kong at any time given the long-arm jurisdiction mechanism of the country, regardless of whether there is a Russian yacht docked in its waters. 

"It once again reminds China that China's Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law should consider how to strengthen the joint countermeasures between the central government and the Hong Kong SAR government in the scope of 'one country, two systems'," he said. 

When asked if the government will welcome Russian funds to Hong Kong for asset management or listing, Lee said any funds or activities will be handled in accordance withHKSAR laws.