HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong leader John Lee will not attend an upcoming economic conference in the U.S. due to “scheduling issues” despite an earlier appeal to be invited as per convention, following reports that he would be barred from the gathering due to U.S. sanctions.
In a statement Tuesday, the Hong Kong government said that it had received an invitation this month to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Economic Leaders’ Meeting taking place Nov. 15 to 17 in San Francisco, but that Lee would not be able to attend in person due to issues with scheduling.
Instead, Hong Kong’s financial minister Paul Chan will attend as a representative of Hong Kong on Lee’s behalf.
In July, China demanded that the United States invite Lee to the APEC meeting following a report from The Washington Post that Lee, who was under U.S. sanctions for his role in a political crackdown in Hong Kong, would not be invited.
Lee himself had appealed to the U.S. to act in accordance with convention and send invitations to all member economies, including Hong Kong.
He was sanctioned in 2020 together with 10 other Hong Kong officials, including previous chief executive Carrie Lam, for undermining the city’s autonomy. Lee was previously Hong Kong’s security minister and oversaw the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in the city following the 2019 anti-government protests.
The United States and other governments have accused Beijing of violating promises of autonomy and Western-style civil liberties after the former British colony returned to China in 1997.
“Hong Kong, China will continue to participate in APEC matters, with a view to contributing to regional economic co-operation by leveraging our distinctive advantages under ‘one country, two systems’ and our status as an international trade and financial center,” the government statement read.
Hong Kong’s statement also comes days after Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi met with U.S. President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, during which both sides agreed to work towards a bilateral meeting of the Chinese and U.S. presidents on the sidelines of the APEC summit.
China however has warned that that road to the bilateral would not be “smooth sailing” and would require both sides to overcome interference and obstacles and work together to achieve results.