US govt. imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong security law


Washington is imposing visa restrictions on Chinese officials responsible for restricting freedoms in Hong Kong, after President Donald Trump promised to punish Beijing over a proposed security law that could erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The US visa restrictions apply to current and former Chinese Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday, without naming any of those targeted.

China said the US decision was a “mistake” that should be withdrawn.

It comes just days ahead of a meeting of China’s parliament, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to discuss the new law, which starts on Sunday.

China has proposed security legislation that would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority in Hong Kong, and could also see China installing its own security agencies in the territory for the first time.

The move has sparked a new wave of anti-mainland protests in Hong Kong.

Mr. Pompeo’s statement on Friday followed a recent vote by the US Senate to impose sanctions on individuals who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and the banks that do business with them.

Responding to the move, the Chinese embassy in Washington said it “firmly opposes the US side’s wrongful decisions”.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the embassy added: “We urge the US side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw the decision and stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs.”

Last month, Mr. Trump also said that he would start to end preferential treatment for Hong Kong in trade and travel, in response to China’s plans.

The US president said Beijing was replacing “its promised formula of One Country, Two Systems with One Country, One System”.

“This is a tragedy for Hong Kong… China has smothered Hong Kong’s freedom,” he added.

China’s parliament has already backed the resolution for the new legislation, which now passes to the country’s senior leadership.

Hong Kong was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.

China is now stepping in to ensure the city definitely has a legal framework to deal with what it sees as serious challenges to its authority.

The law would make criminal any act of:secession, subversion, terrorism and activities by foreign forces that interfere in Hong Kong

Experts say they fear the law could see people punished for criticising Beijing – as it happens in mainland China. (Source: BBC)