US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong autonomy

US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong autonomy

Pro-China activists holding placards and flags
Pro-China activists holding placards and flags hand over a petition at the US consulate general in Hong Kong. Washington has now imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over curbs on the city's autonomy. (AFP/Anthony WALLACE)

WASHINGTON, DC: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday the United States was imposing visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials believed responsible for restricting freedoms in Hong Kong.

"Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on current and former CCP officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy," Pompeo said in a statement, which did not name those targeted.

The announcement comes in response to moves by China to impose new security legislation on Hong Kong, which prompted US President Donald Trump last month to initiate a process to eliminate special economic treatment that has allowed the territory to remain a global financial center.

It also comes at a time of intensified US rhetoric against China in the midst of Trump's re-election campaign, in which opinion polls have shown voters increasingly embittered toward Beijing, especially over the coronavirus, which began in that country.

"President Trump promised to punish the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms. Today, we are taking action to do just that," Pompeo said in the statement.

He said China's Communist Party had stepped up efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy through the national security legislation and by putting pressure on local authorities to arrest pro-democracy activists and disqualify pro-democracy electoral candidates.

Pompeo called on China to honor its commitment to allow Hong Kong "a high degree of autonomy" and added: "The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these concerns."

Source: Reuters