China to restrict visas of US officials over Hong Kong

China on Monday announced visa restrictions on US officials who “behave egregiously” in relation to Hong Kong affairs, days after Washington announced similar restrictions on Chinese officials believed to be undermining freedoms in the Asian financial hub.

The decision was announced in a news conference in Beijing by China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, the state-run Global Times reported. Urging the US to stop reviewing or implementing any Hong Kong-related acts, Lijian said: “Any effort by the US to hinder Beijing’s introduction of a national security law in Hong Kong would not succeed.”

Last month, China's National People's Congress, the country's top legislative body, approved a new national security bill for Hong Kong to tackle "anti-national" activities after months of protests last year. The contentious legislation, set to be adopted into law by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, would make it a crime to undermine Beijing's authority in Hong Kong.

The US, UK, Australia and Canada have expressed deep concern, saying the law could be used to stifle dissent.

The semi-autonomous region became a part of China in 1997. It witnessed large-scale protests last year against a move to legalize extradition of accused persons to mainland China.

Beijing rejects the criticism, warning all parties to refrain from meddling in its "internal" affairs.

On 26 June, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that Washington is imposing visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for undermining freedoms in Hong Kong. Pompeo said the sanctions targeted "current and former" party officials. He said the move followed President Donald Trump's promise to punish Beijing over a proposed security law that could erode Hong Kong's autonomy.

China said the US decision was a "mistake" that should be withdrawn. It comes just days ahead of a meeting of China's parliament.

Pompeo's statement on Friday, which did not name the Chinese officials affected by the US visa restrictions, 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.

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