Hong Kong: China imposes tit-for-tat sanctions on US legislators

US Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley among those targeted amid row over Hong Kong crackdown.

    United States Senators Ted Cruz (left) and Marco Rubio (right) attend a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, the US [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
    United States Senators Ted Cruz (left) and Marco Rubio (right) attend a signing ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, the US [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

    China has imposed sanctions on 11 United States citizens, including legislators, in a tit-for-tat response to the United States' sanctions on 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials accused of curtailing political freedoms in the Asian financial hub.

    Among those targeted on Monday were US Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Pat Toomey and Representative Chris Smith, as well as individuals at non-profit and rights groups.

    "In response to that wrong US behaviour, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing.

    He did not specify what the sanctions entail.

    "Last month #China banned me. Today they sanctioned me. I don't want to be paranoid but I am starting to think they don't like me," Rubio posted on Twitter.

    The Florida legislator's remarks followed the arrest of Hong Kong's pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai under the controversial national security law earlier on Monday.

    "Jimmy Lai and his son were charged with 'colluding w/ foreign powers,'" Rubio said. "As more arrests are expected, the free world must respond quickly as well as provide safe harbor to at-risk Hong Kongers."

    Relations between the two countries have deteriorated sharply in recent months over issues ranging from trade to Hong Kong and China's handling of the novel coronavirus.

    Cleaning workers wearing protective gear walk past a wet market following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, China July 17, 2020. RE
    Cleaning workers, wearing protective gear, walk past a wet market in Sham Shui Po, one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

    China's sanctions of the 11 US citizens is the latest move in a tit-for-tat round of measures between China and the US over accusations of rights abuses and interference.

    The US on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam as well as the city's current and former police chiefs under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

    The sanctions freeze any US assets owned by those people and generally bar the Americans from doing business with them.

    The US legislators targeted by China have been vocal critics of the new security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in late June, expanding its authority in the former British colony.

    Last month, China announced sanctions against Cruz, Rubio, Smith and other US officials after the US penalised senior Chinese officials over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

    In December, Beijing had imposed sanctions against the heads of five US-based non-governmental organisations - the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch - for their positions on Hong Kong.

    Is democracy dead in Hong Kong?

    Inside Story

    Is democracy dead in Hong Kong?

    SOURCE: News agencies