Hong Kong Won't Act on Sanctioned Russian Superyacht

On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced that the city isn't going to seize the superyacht of a Russian businessman who is under Western sanctions. According to Lee, Hong Kong is accountable only to UN sanctions, not "unilateral" ones imposed by "individual jurisdictions."

Hong Kong Won't Act on Sanctioned Russian Superyacht
Image credit: Ibrahim Mushan / Unsplash

Facts

  • On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee announced that the city isn't going to seize the superyacht of a Russian businessman who is under Western sanctions. According to Lee, Hong Kong is accountable only to UN sanctions, not "unilateral" ones imposed by "individual jurisdictions."
  • Alexei Mordashov's more than $500M yacht, Nord, arrived in Hong Kong last week. Mordashov is one of Russia's wealthiest men and is believed to have close ties to Putin. The US, UK, and EU sanctioned the steel billionaire after Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year.
  • Lee's remarks followed the US State Department's warning that harboring the megayacht could harm the city's reputation as an international financial center.
  • Lee himself is under US sanctions for his alleged role in cracking down on dissent in Hong Kong. Lee criticized the sanctions imposed against individual Hong Kong officials, calling it “a very barbaric act."
  • Mordashov has already lost one of his smaller boats, the 215ft Lady M, to Western sanctions. It was seized by Italian police in the port of Imperia in March.
  • Britain handed control over its colony Hong Kong to China in 1997, and Beijing has since set foreign policy for the city, declining to participate in sanctions against Russia for the war in Ukraine.

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and LA Times.

Narratives

  • Anti-China narrative, as provided by BBC News. Hong Kong's decision to provide a safe haven for individuals evading sanctions from multiple jurisdictions has consequences. Its reputation as a financial center requires adherence and compliance with international standards, and its refusal to abide by those rules further calls into question the transparency of its business environment.
  • Pro-China narrative, as provided by Global Times. The comments by the US State Department are misleading and nothing more than a smear campaign against Hong Kong’s business operations. The city — which abides by UN sanctions as required — has no legal obligation or authority to impose Western sanctions. Over the years, Hong Kong has maintained a free, open, law-based business climate and will continue to do so.