China says will put visa restrictions on US individuals over Hong Kong row

Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters that China is urging the United States to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) - China warned on Monday (June 29) that it would impose visa restrictions on US citizens who had "behaved egregiously" over Hong Kong, ahead of expected approval from Beijing lawmakers for a controversial national security law in the city.

China is moving forward on a security law that would enforce punishment for subversion and other offences in Hong Kong, which was rocked by massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump's administration said it was restricting US visas for a number of unspecified Chinese officials for infringing on the autonomy of the financial hub.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that the US "scheme... to obstruct the passage of the Hong Kong national security law will never prevail".

"To target the US's above wrongful actions, China has decided to impose visa restrictions against American individuals who have behaved egregiously on matters concerning HK," Zhao said. He did not specify which US individuals have been targeted.

The United States, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog all voiced fears that the law could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which uses similar laws on the authoritarian mainland to crush dissent.

US 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 US Senate also approved a Bill last week that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that back efforts to restrict Hong Kong's autonomy. It includes secondary sanctions on banks that do business with anyone backing any crackdown on the territory's autonomy.

Zhao told reporters that China has lodged a complaint with the US over the Bill and warned that Beijing will respond with strong countermeasures in response to US actions on Hong Kong.

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