In the latest diplomatic tit-for-tat with the US, China announced Monday that it would impose visa restrictions on US government officials who "behave egregiously" in connection to Hong Kong affairs, according to the South China Morning Post. Chinese Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Washington to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and warned that Beijing would use powerful countermeasures if the US continues to interfere.
“The U.S. is attempting to obstruct China’s legislation for safeguarding national security in the HK SAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) by imposing the so-called sanctions, but it will never succeed,” he told reporters. “In response ... China has decided to impose visa restrictions on U.S. individuals with egregious conduct on HK related issues" he said quoted by Reuters.
"Who will be the targets? Relevant people would know clearly themselves," he added.
Zhao also told reporters that China has lodged a complaint with the U.S. over the bill and warned that Beijing will respond with strong countermeasures in response to U.S. actions on Hong Kong.
Monday's announcement is in retaliation for Washington's decision last week to restrict visas for Chinese government officials who threaten Hong Kong's autonomy.
"No matter how Hong Kong separatists squawk, and no matter what kind of pressure is exerted by external anti-China forces, their scheme to obstruct the passage of the Hong Kong national security law will never prevail, and the bill is but a piece of waste paper," he added, referring to the US Senate's passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act last week.
Last week, Mike Pompeo said that US visa restrictions would apply to "current and former officials" of China's ruling Communist Party, "believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy." European Union leaders recently told Chinese President Xi Jinping of "negative consequences" if it passes the law in Hong Kong.
The latest flare up in tensions is as a result of China controversial national security law which allows Beijing to set up a national security office in Hong Kong, which will gather intelligence and "handle crimes" against national security. The move will allow China to counter pro-democracy protesters and "foreign forces" (i.e., the US) who attempt to destabilize Hong Kong.
The tit-for-tat visa restrictions come as tensions between Beijing and Washington are flaring up over trade deal purchase commitments, origins of the virus pandemic, and territory disputes in the South China Sea.