United States restricts visas for Chinese officials over Hong Kong security law

China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997

US announces visa restrictions on Chinese officials for undermining autonomy of Hong Kong

China announced a draft national security law in May that would be imposed across its territory, including Hong Kong, to tackle "terrorism", "separatism" "subversion of state power" and foreign interference.

He accused China of pressuring local authorities to arrest pro-democracy activists and disqualify electoral candidates, and added: "The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these concerns".

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, a lead sponsor, said in the Senate the legislation would send a clear message to Beijing that there would be consequences if it acts to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy.

The sweeping bill, which would bypass Hong Kong's legislature, would mean that mainland China would implant its national security apparatus to operate in the semi-autonomous region for the first time.

"When I left that day, I did not leave optimistic that the Chinese Communist Party was prepared to give us any notice that there were changes that were going to be made", he said, noting that a few days later Beijing moved ahead with plans to tighten its grip on Hong Kong with the new national security law.

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"The people of Hong Kong enjoy extensive rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the Basic Law".

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong issued a statement expressing strong resentment of the USA action.

In a related vote, the Senate also approved a measure stating that enactment of the bill would put the Beijing government in direct violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, a treaty that ended British rule in Hong Kong and granted the city partial sovereignty in 1997.

"Individuals subject to this visa restriction policy will be evaluated for their eligibility under this policy when they apply and may be refused visas", she said.

"This is a tragedy for Hong Kong".

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China's Washington embassy did not respond to a request for comment on Pompeo's visa move.

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

Chinese embassy spokeswoman Fang Hong said China "opposes the US side's wrongful decisions", and added that China's legislation targeted only "a very narrow category of acts that seriously jeopardize national security".

In a statement posted on Twitter, the embassy added: "We urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw the decision and stop interfering in China's domestic affairs".

The announcement is the latest administration move against Beijing as tensions between the two capitals have steadily increased over a slew of issues, including but not limited to trade, the telecom giant Huawei's 5G technology, media freedoms and designations, the South China Sea, the coronavirus and the question of Hong Kong's autonomy.

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United States rhetoric against Beijing has intensified during Trump's re-election campaign.

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