HONG KONG (Dispatches) — China said Monday it will suspend U.S. military ship and aircraft visits to Hong Kong and sanction several American groups in retaliation for the signing into law of legislation supporting riots in the semi-autonomous territory.
While the nature of the sanctions remained unclear, the move followed Chinese warnings that the U.S. would bear the costs if the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was approved.
The steps are "in response to America’s unreasonable behavior,” Foreign Ninistry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing, adding that the legislation seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs.
The law, signed last Wednesday by President Donald Trump, mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.
The legislation was backed by U.S. lawmakers who are sympathetic to the protesters and have criticized Hong Kong police for confronting rioters.
Police say their use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other force is a necessary response to escalating violence by the protesters, who have blocked major roads and thrown gasoline bombs back at officers in riot gear.
Hong Kong has been living with almost nonstop unrest for six months.
Hua said China would sanction organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House and others that she said had "performed badly” in the Hong Kong unrest.
"China urges the United States to correct its mistakes and stop any words and deeds that interfere in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs,” she said, adding that China could take "further necessary actions” depending on how matters develop.
Hua accused the groups of instigating protesters to engage in "radical violent crimes and inciting separatist activities.”
"These organizations deserve to be sanctioned and must pay a price,” Hua said.
China has long accused foreign groups and governments of fomenting the demonstrations in Hong Kong, singling out the U.S., former colonial overlord Britain, and self-governing Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.
Among the groups to be subject to the unspecified sanctions, the National Endowment for Democracy receives funding directly from Congress, while others generally draw their running costs from a mixture of private and public grants.