The Treasury Department of the United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, and 10 other top officials from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions were used to target those undermining Hong Kong's autonomy, reports BBC.
"The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong," he added.
The development came weeks after China imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong.
The effort drew much criticism across the globe and critics said the law threatened Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Among those sanctioned are Hong Kong's police commissioner and several political secretaries.
The US Treasury directly accused Ms Lam of "implementing Beijing's policies of suppression of freedom and democratic processes."
"In 2019, Lam pushed for an update to Hong Kong's extradition arrangements to allow for extradition to the mainland, setting off a series of massive opposition demonstrations in Hong Kong," the US Treasury said in a statement.
TikTok has threatened legal action against the United States after Donald Trump ordered the firms to stop doing business with the Chinese app within 45 days.
The company said it was "shocked" by an executive order from the US President outlining the ban, reports BBC.
TikTok said it would "pursue all remedies available" to "ensure the rule of law is not discarded".
Trump issued a similar order against China's WeChat in a major escalation in Washington's stand-off with Beijing.
WeChat's owner, Tencent, said: "We are reviewing the executive order to get a full understanding."
The president has already threatened to ban TikTok in the US, citing national security concerns, and the company is now in talks to sell its American business to Microsoft. They have until 15 September to reach a deal - a deadline set by Trump.
The Trump administration claims that the Chinese government has access to user information gathered by TikTok, which the company has denied.
"We have made clear that TikTok has never shared user data with the Chinese government, nor censored content at its request," TikTok said.
"We even expressed our willingness to pursue a full sale of the US business to an American company."
Mr Trump said this week he would support the sale to Microsoft as long as the US government received a "substantial portion" of the sale price.
TikTok said the new executive order "risks undermining global businesses' trust in the United States' commitment to the rule of law", adding it sets "a dangerous precedent for the concept of free expression and open markets".
"We will pursue all remedies available to us in order to ensure that the rule of law is not discarded and that our company and our users are treated fairly - if not by the administration, then by the US courts," it said.
President Donald Trump on Thursday issued an official order banning dealings with Chinese owners of TikTok and WeChat, although it remains unclear if he has the legal authority to actually ban the apps from the US.
The Trump administration has taken the steps against the threat from China while both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have also raised concerns about TikTok, including censorship, misinformation campaigns, the safety of user data and children’s privacy, reports AP.
But the administration has provided no specific evidence that TikTok has made US users’ data available to the Chinese government. Instead, officials point to the hypothetical threat that lies in the Chinese government’s ability to demand cooperation from Chinese companies.
Earlier this week, Trump threatened a deadline of Sept 15 to “close down” TikTok unless Microsoft or another company acquires it.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an expansion of the US crackdown on Chinese technology to include barring Chinese apps from US app stores, citing alleged security threats and calling out TikTok and WeChat by name.
TikTok and Microsoft had no immediate replies to queries. Tencent declined to comment.
Leading mobile security experts say TikTok is no more intrusive in its harvesting of user data and monitoring of user activity than US apps owned by Facebook and Google.
The twin executive orders — one for each app — take effect in 45 days. They call on the Commerce Secretary to define the banned dealings by that time.
While the wording of the orders is vague, some experts said it appears intended to bar the popular apps from the Apple and Google app stores, which could effectively remove them from distribution in the US.
Trump’s orders cited legal authority from the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.
“I am the first to yell from the rooftops when there is a glaring privacy issue somewhere. But we just have not found anything we could call a smoking gun in TikTok,” mobile security expert Will Strafach told AP last month after examining the app.
Strafach is CEO of Guardian, which provides a firewall for Apple devices.
The order doesn't seem to ban Americans from using TikTok, said Kirsten Martin, a professor of technology ethics at the University of Notre Dame. She added that such an order would be nearly impossible to enforce in the first place.
“If goal is to get teenagers to stop using TikTok, I’m not sure an executive order will stop them,” she said. “Every teenager knows how to use a VPN (a virtual private network). They will just pretend they are in Canada.”
TikTok is a video-sharing app that's widely popular among young people in the US and elsewhere. It is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, which operates a separate version for the Chinese market. TikTok insists it does not store US user information in China and would not share it with the Chinese government.
TikTok says it has 100 million US users and hundreds of millions globally. According to research firm App Annie, TikTok saw 50 million weekly active users in the US during the week of July 19, the latest available figure. That's up 75 percent from the first week of the year.
WeChat and its sister app Weixin in China are hugely popular messaging apps; many Chinese expatriates use WeChat to stay in touch with friends and family back home. WeChat also says it doesn’t share data with the Chinese government and never has, and does not store international user data in China. US user data is stored in Canada.
The order against Tencent could have ramifications for users beyond WeChat, which is crucial for personal communications and organisations that do business with China. Tencent also owns parts or all of major game companies like Epic Games, publisher of Fortnite, a major video game hit, and Riot Games, which is behind League of Legends.
Facebook has deleted a post from US President Donald Trump’s page for violating its policy against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
Facebook said on Wednesday that the “video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies about harmful COVID misinformation,” reports AP.
This is not the first time that Facebook has removed a post from Trump, Facebook said, but it's the first time it has done so because it was spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. The company has also labeled his posts.
A few hours later, Twitter temporarily blocked the Trump campaign from tweeting from its account, until it removed a post with the same video. Trump’s account retweeted the video.
In a statement late Wednesday, the company said that the tweet violated its rules against COVID misinformation. When a tweet breaks its rules, Twitter asks users to remove the tweet in questions and bans them from posting anything else until they do.
Twitter has generally been quicker than Facebook in recent months to label posts from the president that violate its policies against misinformation and abuse.
The post in question featured a link to a Fox News video in which Trump says children are “virtually immune” to the virus.
Several studies suggest, but don’t prove, that children are less likely to become infected than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms. But this is not the same as being “virtually immune” to the virus.
A CDC study involving 2,500 children published in April found that about 1 in 5 infected children were hospitalized versus 1 in 3 adults; three children died. The study lacks complete data on all the cases, but it also suggests that many infected children have no symptoms, which could allow them to spread the virus to others.
As Joe Biden nears the announcement of his vice presidential choice, the top contenders and their advocates are making final appeals.
The campaign hasn't finalized a date for naming a running mate, but three people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans said a public announcement likely wouldn't happen before the week of Aug. 10. That's one week before Democrats will hold their convention to officially nominate Biden as their presidential nominee.
Biden said in May that he hoped to name his pick around Aug. 1 and told reporters this week that he would "have a choice in the first week of August." He notably stopped short of saying when he would announce that choice.
Running mates are often announced on the eve of a convention. As Biden prepares to make his choice, a committee established to vet running mates has provided him with briefing materials. Biden will likely soon begin one-on-one conversations with those under consideration, which could be the most consequential part of the process for a presidential candidate who values personal connections.
The leading contenders include California Sen. Kamala Harris, California Rep. Karen Bass and Obama national security adviser Susan Rice. The deliberations remain fluid, however, and the campaign has reviewed nearly a dozen possible running mates.
Representatives for Biden declined to comment.
The selection amounts to the most significant choice Biden has confronted in his nearly five-decade political career. He has pledged to select a woman and is facing calls to choose the first Black woman to compete on a presidential ticket.
On Friday, more than 60 Black clergy leaders called on Biden in an open letter to pick a Black woman as his running mate, saying the U.S. is facing a "moment of racial reckoning" that cannot be ignored.
"Too much is at stake for our community and we believe having a Black woman vice presidential candidate is the clearest path to the victory in November that our country needs to move forward," said Rev. Matthew Watley, of Kingdom Fellowship AME Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, who signed the letter.
As a decision looms, the camps are jockeying for position.
Harris' allies mobilized this week after Politico reported that the co-chair of the vetting committee, former Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, was concerned about Harris' tough debate stage performance and that she hasn't expressed regret.
Several California elected officials and labor leaders initiated a call with the vetting team to emphasize that Harris has strong support among labor and political leaders in her home state. The call was organized by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis.
"A group of us really felt we needed to organize and speak out and correct the record because she has tremendous support," Kounalakis said.
They also pushed back against the idea that Harris wouldn't be a loyal partner, a sentiment echoed by a number of prominent donors.
"By all objective standards, Kamala Harris should be the overwhelming favorite for the job," said Michael Kempner, a major Democratic donor based in New York.
Harris, while not directly addressing her vice presidential prospects, said Saturday that anyone who tries to shatter a glass ceiling faces naysayers.
"Breaking barriers involves breaking things. And sometimes you get cut," Harris, who is Black, told attendees of an online convention held by the Ohio Democratic Party. "Sometime it hurts, but it is worth it."
Biden allies say his wife, Jill, and sister, Valerie Biden Owens, are likely to play a key role in the decision, as they have with many of Biden's biggest political decisions throughout his career. Jill Biden has held online campaign events and fundraisers with virtually all the potential contenders in recent weeks, as has Biden himself, effectively offering the contenders a try-out opportunity with the presumptive Democratic nominee.
On Thursday night, Bass joined Biden for a virtual fundraiser that raked in $2.2 million. She has also taken steps to build her national profile, including providing interviews to multiple outlets over the past week.
But she's facing growing scrutiny over past remarks. A video surfaced of a 2010 speech in which she praised Scientology during an opening ceremony for a church facility in Los Angeles.
"The Church of Scientology I know has made a difference, because your creed is a universal creed and one that speaks to all people everywhere," Bass said of an organization that has come under criticism following allegations of criminal activity and mistreatment of members and employees.
She tweeted a statement on Saturday noting that she attends First New Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in South Los Angeles.
"Back in 2010, I attended the event knowing I was going to address a group of people with beliefs very different than my own, and spoke briefly about things I think most of us agree with, and on those things — respect for different views, equality, and fighting oppression — my views have not changed," she said.
Bass also faced criticism over a 2016 statement in which she said the death of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was "a great loss to the people of Cuba."
Some Democrats have expressed concern that the comment could hurt the party with Hispanic voters in the critical swing state of Florida.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., seized on that point Saturday.
"If, God forbid, Joe Biden is elected president and Congresswoman Bass becomes vice president, she'll be the highest-ranking Castro sympathizer in the history of the United States government," Rubio said.
Bass has said she better understands the sensitivity of her comment after speaking with Florida colleagues, and she believes she can still reach out to Cuban voters.