China re­tal­i­ates at U.S., sus­pends mil­i­tary vis­its

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By Ken Moritsugu Ken Moritsugu is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

HONG KONG — China said Mon­day it will sus­pend U.S. mil­i­tary ship and air­craft vis­its to Hong Kong and sanc­tion sev­eral Amer­i­can pro­democ­racy and hu­man rights groups in re­tal­i­a­tion for laws sup­port­ing antigov­ern­ment protests in the semi­au­ton­o­mous ter­ri­tory.

While the na­ture of the sanctions re­mained un­clear, the move fol­lowed Chi­nese warn­ings that the U.S. would bear the costs if the Hong Kong Hu­man Rights and Democ­racy Act was ap­proved.

The steps are “in re­sponse to Amer­ica’s un­rea­son­able be­hav­ior,” for­eign min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing said in Beijing, adding that the leg­is­la­tion in­ter­fered in China’s in­ter­nal af­fairs.

The law, signed last Wed­nes­day by Pres­i­dent Trump, man­dates sanctions on Chi­nese and Hong Kong of­fi­cials who carry out hu­man rights abuses and re­quires an an­nual re­view of the fa­vor­able trade sta­tus that Wash­ing­ton grants Hong Kong. The leg­is­la­tion was backed by U.S. law­mak­ers who are sym­pa­thetic to the pro­test­ers and have crit­i­cized Hong Kong po­lice for crack­ing down on the pro­democ­racy move­ment.

Hong Kong has been liv­ing with almost non­stop protests for six months. The move­ment’s de­mands in­clude demo­cratic elec­tions and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the po­lice re­sponse. More fun­da­men­tally, the pro­test­ers and oth­ers in Hong Kong fear that China is erod­ing their rights and free­doms.

Hua said China would sanc­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions in­clud­ing the Na­tional En­dow­ment for Democ­racy, the Na­tional Demo­cratic In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Af­fairs, Hu­man Rights Watch, the In­ter­na­tional Repub­li­can In­sti­tute, Free­dom House and oth­ers that she said had “per­formed badly” in the Hong Kong un­rest.

“China urges the United States to cor­rect its mis­takes and stop any words and deeds that in­ter­fere in Hong Kong and China’s in­ter­nal af­fairs,” she said, adding that China could take “fur­ther nec­es­sary ac­tions” de­pend­ing on how mat­ters de­velop.

Hua ac­cused the groups of in­sti­gat­ing pro­test­ers to en­gage in “rad­i­cal vi­o­lent crimes and in­cit­ing sep­a­ratist ac­tiv­i­ties.”

China has long ac­cused for­eign groups and gov­ern­ments of fo­ment­ing the demon­stra­tions in Hong Kong, sin­gling out the U.S., for­mer colo­nial over­lord Bri­tain, and demo­cratic, self­gov­ern­ing Tai­wan, which China claims as its own ter­ri­tory to be an­nexed by force if nec­es­sary.

Among the groups to be sub­ject to the un­spec­i­fied sanctions, the Na­tional En­dow­ment for Democ­racy re­ceives fund­ing di­rectly from Congress, while oth­ers gen­er­ally draw their run­ning costs from a mix­ture of pri­vate and public grants.

Derek Mitchell, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Demo­cratic In­sti­tute, said in Hong Kong last week that ac­cu­sa­tions it was col­lud­ing with pro­test­ers were “patently false.” The in­sti­tute has no role in the cur­rent protests, and “to sug­gest oth­er­wise spreads mis­in­for­ma­tion and fails to rec­og­nize the move­ment stems from gen­uine griev­ances,” he said.

While China has in the past sus­pended U.S. mil­i­tary vis­its, the sanctions on the var­i­ous groups could bring con­di­tions for civil so­ci­ety in Hong Kong one step closer to those in main­land China. Beijing im­poses re­stric­tions on non­gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, and is par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about those in­volved in hu­man­i­tar­ian causes and mi­nor­ity rights.

Dale de la Rey / AFP via Getty Im­ages

U.S. Navy crew mem­bers stand on the deck of the Blue Ridge dur­ing an April 20 port call in Hong Kong.

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