WASHINGTON: The United States was imposing visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials believed responsible for restricting freedoms in Hong Kong.
The move ahead of a meeting of China’s parliament next week that is expected to enact new national security legislation for Hong Kong that has raised alarm among foreign governments and democracy activists.
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,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said without naming them.
Last month, President Donald Trump responded to China’s new legislation by eliminating special economic treatment that has allowed Hong Kong to remain a global financial centre. Pompeo’s announcement represents the first step in response to China’s moves.
United States has increased statements against Chine during Trump’s re-election campaign especially over the coronavirus outbreak.
“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.
He said 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 electoral candidates.
The law is expected to be enacted by the decision-making body of China’s parliament at a three-day meeting starting on Sunday.
On Thursday, the US Senate passed bipartisan legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that back efforts to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The measure includes secondary sanctions on banks that do business with anyone backing any crackdown on the territory’s autonomy, potentially cutting them off from American counterparts and limiting access to US dollar transactions.