President Donald Trump’s administration said it was restricting US visas for a number of Chinese officials for infringing on the autonomy of Hong Kong, announcing action as Congress seeks tougher sanctions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would curb visas for unspecified current and former officials of the Chinese Communist Party “who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms.”
The officials who were targeted were “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” which Beijing promised before regaining control of the territory in 1997 from Britain, Pompeo said.
“The United States calls on China to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Pompeo said in a statement, urging protections of “freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.”
A State Department spokeswoman declined to say how many people were affected or even if they would all be denied entry to the United States.
“Individuals subject to this visa restriction policy will be evaluated for their eligibility under this policy when they apply and may be refused visas,” she said.
China is moving forward on a security law that would enforce punishment for subversion and other offenses in Hong Kong, which saw massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year.
Activists say the law would effectively undo the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong, one of the world’s premier financial hubs.
But 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 citing the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“We urge the US side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw the decisions and stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs. The Chinese side will continue to take strong measures to uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests,” it continued.