United States curbs visas for Chinese officials over Hong Kong freedoms - Pompeo

United States curbs visas for Chinese officials over Hong Kong freedoms - Pompeo

United States curbs visas for Chinese officials over Hong Kong freedoms - Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did not disclose the names of the officials in-line with U.S. policy not to publicly discuss individual visa matters, but said they have been involved in "eviscerating Hong Kong's freedoms", and have violated the pact that ceded the semi-autonomous territory from the United Kingdom to China.

We must stand up to China's continued imperialism and respond strongly to any crackdown in Hong Kong, including reconsideration of China's special trade status with the US, Hawley said.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, comes as tensions over Hong Kong have increased over the past year as China has cracked down on protesters and sought to exert more control over the former British territory.

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.

He said China had stepped up efforts to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy through the legislation and by pressuring local authorities to arrest pro-democracy activists and disqualify pro-democracy electoral candidates.

However, China's official Xinhua News Agency said a Hong Kong government spokesman had called legislation approved by the U.S. Senate on Thursday that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that back efforts to restrict Hong Kong's autonomy totally unacceptable.

A State Department spokeswoman declined to name those targeted in Friday's move, saying visa records were confidential.

But the Chinese embassy in Washington insisted in a statement that no one has any legal grounds or right to make irresponsible comments on Hong Kong affairs, citing the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

"China has said it wants to improve" the lives of those who live in Hong Kong, but reality, that means stripping the people of Hong Kong of the basic rights and liberties guaranteed to them under the 1984 treaty, Hawley said.

Protesters against Beijing's security law in Hong Kong.

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

"The United States will also take necessary steps to sanction PRC and Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong's autonomy and - just if you take a look, smothering - absolutely smothering Hong Kong's freedom".

A government spokesman urged the U.S. Congress to immediately stop interfering in HKSAR's internal matters.

The visa restrictions on Chinese officials pertain to Beijing's actions in Hong Kong, which was handed to it by Britain in 1977 under the "One Country, Two Systems Agreement" under which it has to provide higher autonomy to the region.

Van Hollen said he hopes Trump will sign the bill, but also raised concerns that the White House could have already imposed sanctions under current law and that "despite some statements from the secretary of state, this administration is still taking no action" to rebuff China on Hong.

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