China said on Monday that it would retaliate against the U.S. action to punish officials connected to political crackdowns in Hong Kong by implementing visa restrictions on Americans it determines to have “performed badly” on the handling of affairs in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The move comes as China’s legislature is expected to pass a national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday that critics say will fiercely curb any type of resistance to politics and freedom of speech in the city.
Under the new law, those found inciting subversion and other offenses against the state in Hong Kong could be punished. Large-scale pro-democracy protests were held last year in the region in response to China exercising more of its authority over residents.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian announced the new sanctions during a press briefing in response to a question about Washington’s proposed visa restrictions. He did not detail which U.S. individuals have been targeted by the new ban.
“In response to the above-mentioned wrong behavior of the U.S. side, China has decided to impose visa restrictions on U.S. personnel who perform badly on Hong Kong related issues,” Zhao said according to the Associated Press.
At the end of May Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he no longer considers Hong Kong to be autonomous from China. President Trump announced he was in the process of initiating a measure to eliminate the favorable trade relationship the U.S. holds with Hong Kong, which has allowed for the former British territory to remain financially secure.
On Thursday the Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act to impose sanctions on businesses, individuals, entities, and banks that weaken Hong Kong’s autonomy or limit freedoms guaranteed to the city’s residents.
One part of the bill, written by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey (PA) and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen (MD), calls for sanctions on businesses and individuals that aid China in their efforts to restrict Hong Kong's autonomy.
A second layer of the sanctions comes from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (MO) in the form of a resolution censuring China for breaching a 1984 agreement of promised autonomy for Hong Kong.
The bill still has a long way to go as it must pass through the House and then be sent to President Trump for his signature, but based on the bipartisan supported already seen in the Senate, lawmakers don't perceive this being an issue.
These tit-for-tat bans come after months of worsening tensions between the U.S. and China on issues not just relating to Hong Kong but as a result of a soured trade deal between the two nations and the failure to contain the novel coronavirus on China's end.