US imposes sanctions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong law
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States was imposing visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for restricting freedoms in Hong Kong. Pompeo said that the move follows President Donald Trump's promise to punish Beijing over a proposed security law that could threaten Hong Kong's autonomy.
Beijing is expected to vote on the law on July 1, at the first session of the National People’s Congress. The move has alarmed foreign governments and democracy activists in the special administrative region.
The US also promises to impose trade sanctions on China if the law is enacted. The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to this effect. The bill also has secondary provisions to impose sanctions on any businesses or individuals who help China enforce provisions of the security law.
Pompeo said the US visa restrictions apply to "current and former CCP officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy.” China responded to the visa sanctions by saying that the move is a mistake and should be withdrawn.
Pompeo's announcement represents the first concrete US step in response to China's moves.
China and the US had been involved in a trade war since 2018. This escalated when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in December of 2019. President Trump, along with leaders of other western nations have accused China over a lack of transparency about the origins of the virus.
Washington had been pushing for the US government to take a strong stance against China in this regard. Opinion polls in the US show that many citizens are embittered towards China.
"President Trump promised to punish the Chinese Communist Party officials who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong's freedoms. Today, we are taking action to do just that," Pompeo said.
According to Pompeo, China had stepped up efforts to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy through the legislation and by pressuring local authorities to arrest pro-democracy activists and disqualify pro-democracy electoral candidates.
The Chinese embassy in Washington insisted in a statement that "No one has any legal grounds or right to make irresponsible comments on Hong Kong affairs."We urge the US side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw the decisions and stop interfering in China's domestic affairs.
Beijing has been adamant on the passage of the law; it insists it will target only a few trouble makers and strengthen governance of Hong Kong.
Hong Kongers, in the meantime, wait with bated breath and many of them have already moved assets to other commonwealth nations like Canada, Australia and New Zealand so that they can move when things take a downward turn.