China has announced sanctions on US officials and lawmakers in response to similar US action last week over the political crackdown in Hong Kong and Washington’s efforts to forge links with Taiwan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that the United States had “blatantly intervened” in Hong Kong by imposing sanctions on six mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials over the mass arrest of more than 50 pro-democracy politicians and activists in the city.
Without naming the targeted individuals, Hua said Beijing would impose reciprocal sanctions on US officials, lawmakers and non-profit staff who were “primarily responsible for the vile actions on Hong Kong” and their family members.
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“The US must immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and immediately stop using various pretences to interfere in China’s internal affairs, endangering China’s national security,” she said, adding the US was going along a path of “error and danger”.
The US State Department said its latest sanctions targeted those linked to Beijing’s sweeping national security law in Hong Kong, including Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to China’s top legislative body, and You Quan, vice-chairman of Beijing’s Central Leading Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs.
Outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called on mainland Chinese and Hong Kong officials to “immediately release” individuals who had been targeted under the national security law and said that the US would “continue to use all tools at our disposal to hold those responsible to account”.
The action followed sanctions in August against Hong Kong officials seen as undermining the city’s autonomy and freedom, including against the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who said that as a result, she no longer had a bank account.
Hong Kong’s government described the US sanctions as “insane, shameless and despicable” interference in its internal affairs. The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office also likened Pompeo to a “laughable praying mantis” over the action.
Pompeo had said the US would remove self-imposed restrictions on contact between US diplomats, service members and other officials’ interactions with Taiwan so that the relationship would no longer be “shackled”.
Hua said on Monday that Beijing would also impose sanctions on unspecified US officials who had “acted maliciously” on the Taiwan issue.
Under outgoing President Donald Trump, the US has strengthened ties with Taiwan, including through arms sales and official visits, despite protests from Beijing that it has sovereignty over the democratic island.
In a online meeting on Thursday, US ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen that the US would always stand with Taiwan.
Craft, who was spotted entering the UN General Assembly Hall with a toy Formosan black bear – a species endemic to Taiwan – in her bag, also spoke to Taiwanese students via video link from the United Nations to underline US support for “a role for Taiwan on the global stage”.
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