BEIJING (Dispatches) -- Beijing said on Monday it will impose visa restrictions on U.S. individuals with "egregious conduct” on Hong Kong-related issues, mirroring U.S. sanctions against unnamed Chinese officials.
The announcement comes as the top decision-making body of China’s parliament deliberates a draft national security law for Hong Kong.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who announced the new sanctions during a press briefing in response to a question about Washington’s new visa restrictions, did not specify which U.S. individuals have been targeted.
"The U.S. 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 U.S. individuals with egregious conduct on HK related issues.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that the new visa restrictions by Washington apply to "current and former” officials of China’s ruling Communist Party "believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
The U.S. Senate also approved a bill last week that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that the U.S. accuses of backing efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. It includes secondary sanctions on banks that do business with anyone deemed as threatening the territory’s autonomy.
Zhao, the foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters that China has lodged a complaint with the U.S. over the bill and warned that Beijing will respond with strong countermeasures in response to U.S. actions on Hong Kong.
Last month, Hong Kong’s legislature debated and passed a bill, criminalizing sedition, secession and subversion against the mainland. The law drew harsh criticism from some Western governments, particularly the U.S., which claim that the law threatens the semi-autonomous stance of the city.
Beijing, however, insists that the new law does not pose a threat to Hong Kong’s autonomy and the interests of foreign investors, noting that it is merely meant to prevent terrorism and foreign interference there, which were evident in the violent riots there against the government last year.
Hong Kong was rocked by violent protests over another bill that would have reformed its extradition law last year. Rioters vandalized the city, destroying public and private property and attacking anyone deemed to be pro-government. Hong Kong dropped that bill, but the acts of violence continued.