Beijing yesterday said that it would impose visa restrictions on US individuals with “egregious conduct” on Hong Kong-related issues, mirroring US sanctions against unnamed Chinese officials deemed responsible for curbing freedoms in the territory.
It was not clear if the measure targeted only US government officials or those in the private sector as well.
The announcement comes as the Chinese National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee deliberates a draft national security law for Hong Kong that pro-democracy advocates in the territory fear could be used to eliminate dissent and tighten Beijing’s control.
It is expected to adopt the legislation before its session ends later today.
The legislation was approved by the NPC during its May 22 to May 28 meeting, little more than six weeks after it was unveiled, sending shockwaves through Hong Kong and beyond.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅), who announced the new sanctions during a press briefing in response to a question about Washington’s new visa restrictions, did not specify which US individuals have been targeted.
“The US is attempting to obstruct China’s legislation for safeguarding national security in the HK SAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region] by imposing the so-called sanctions, but it will never succeed,” he told reporters. “In response … China has decided to impose visa restrictions on US individuals with egregious conduct on HK related issues.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week said that the new visa restrictions by Washington apply to “current and former” officials of the Chinese Communist Party “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
The US Senate last week also approved a bill that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that back efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. It includes secondary sanctions on banks that do business with anyone backing any crackdown on the territory’s autonomy.
Zhao said that the US “should not review, advance or implement relevant negative bills concerning Hong Kong, even less impose so-called sanctions on China, otherwise China will firmly take strong countermeasures.”
He also that China had lodged a complaint with the US over the Senate bill.
Additional reporting by AP and AFP
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