China’s office in Hong Kong on Saturday denounced Washington’s decision to sanction key officials over sliding freedoms in the business hub, calling the move “barbarous and rude”.

Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong said in a statement, “The ill intentions of US politicians to support people who are anti-China and messing up Hong Kong have been clearly revealed”.

On Friday, the US slapped sanctions on Hong Kong’s leader after effectively forcing Chinese internet giants TikTok and WeChat to end all US operations in a twin diplomatic-commercial offensive set to grow ahead of US elections.

The move criminalizes any US financial transactions with the 11 officials, who include Hong Kong’s police commissioner, its security secretary and China’s top official in the international financial hub.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “Today’s actions send a clear message that the Hong Kong authorities’ actions are unacceptable”.

Earlier, Pompeo had described China’s announcement to tighten its control over Hong Kong as unilateral, arbitrary and disastrous, said the former British colony no longer qualifies to be considered as autonomous under mainland China.

China late May proposed a national security law for Hong Kong in response to last year’s violent pro-democracy protests that plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“The United States stands with the Hong Kong people”, Pompeo further added.

Late Thursday, Trump made good on previous threats against WeChat and TikTok — two apps with major audiences that US officials said pose a national security threat.

In an executive order, Trump gave Americans 45 days to stop doing business with the Chinese platforms, effectively setting a deadline for a potential, under-pressure sale of TikTok to Microsoft.

The app owned by Chinese-based ByteDance vowed to “pursue all remedies available” to seek what it called fair treatment.

Trump has effectively set a deadline of mid-September for TikTok to be acquired by a US firm or be banned in the United States, leading Microsoft to accelerate its talks to buy it.

The TikTok mobile app has been downloaded about 175 million times in the US and more than a billion times around the world.

(With inputs from agency)