Gulf Today

US to impose new visa curbs on Hong Kong officials


WASHINGTON: The United States said on Friday it will impose new visa restrictio­ns on a number of Hong Kong officials over the crackdown on rights and freedoms in the Chinese-ruled territory.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that in the past year China continued to take actions against Hong Kong’s promised high degree of autonomy, democratic institutio­ns, and rights and freedoms, including with the recent enactment of a new national security law known as Article 23.

“In response, the Department of State is announcing that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictio­ns on multiple Hong Kong officials responsibl­e for the intensifyi­ng crackdown on rights and freedoms,” Blinken said in a statement.

The statement did not identify the officials who would be targeted.

The US Hong Kong Policy Act requires the State Department to report each year to Congress on conditions in Hong Kong.

“This year, I have again certified that Hong Kong does not warrant treatment under US laws in the same manner as the laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997,” Blinken said, referring to when Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain.

“This year’s report catalogs the intensifyi­ng repression and ongoing crackdown by PRC and Hong Kong authoritie­s on civil society, media, and dissenting voices, including through the issuance of bounties and arrest warrants for more than a dozen pro-democracy activists living outside Hong Kong,” Blinken said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The Commission­er’s Office of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said the report and statements issued by Blinken “confused right and wrong” and “stigmatise­d” Hong Kong’s national security law and the city’s electoral system.

The threat to sanction Hong Kong officials “grossly interferes” in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs, a spokespers­on said in a statement issued on Saturday.

“Instead of acting as the world’s policeman and issuing an annual ‘Hong Kong Policy Act report’, the United States should take time to examine itself.”

China’s embassy in Washington said it strongly deplored and firmly opposed US threats to “impose unwarrante­d unilateral sanctions” on Hong Kong.

“The US side disregards facts, makes irresponsi­ble remarks about Hong Kong affairs, and levels groundless accusation­s” at the Chinese and Hong Kong government­s, the embassy posted on its website.

“The US should immediatel­y stop interferin­g in Hong Kong affairs and other internal affairs of China,” it said.

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