US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese party officials

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks the press at the State Department in Washington, DC, on May 20, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
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By Bill Faries Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. is imposing visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials he blamed for “eviscerating” the freedoms of Hong Kong citizens but didn’t identify those targeted.

“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, as guaranteed in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong,” Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

“Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions,” he said. A State Department spokesperson declined further comment.

In May, President Donald Trump promised sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials “directly or indirectly involved” in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy.

“Our actions will be strong. Our actions will be meaningful,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.

The move on Friday comes amid worsening ties between the world’s two biggest economies. Despite meetings that Pompeo held with his Chinese counterpart in Hawaii last week, relations remain soured over issues from China’s handling of the coronavirus to its move to enact legislation restricting Hong Kong and its treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province.

On Wednesday the Pentagon published a list of 20 Chinese companies it said were owned or controlled by China’s military, potentially exposing them to further scrutiny or sanctions in the U.S.

The Senate approved a bipartisan measure Thursday that would penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials involved in the national security law the country is seeking to impose on Hong Kong.

The measure sponsored by Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania was approved by voice vote. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House with bipartisan support; it would need to pass that chamber before it reaches Trump’s desk.

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