July 15 (UPI) -- The United States imposed visa restrictions on certain employees of Chinese technology companies on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, becoming the latest move by the Trump administration to punish China over its human rights abuses.
The measure is expected to further fray the already fraught relations between Washington and Beijing, which have worsened in recent months as the Trump administration has repeatedly accused China of conducting a cover-up of its initial outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic while the United States has passed legislation to punish it for committing human rights abuses against Hong Kong protesters and its Muslim minority Uyghur residents in Xinjiang -- allegations the Chinese Communist Party has staunchly denied.
"The State Department will impose visa restrictions on certain employees of Chinese technology companies like Huawei that provide material support to regimes engaging in human rights violations and abuses globally," Pompeo said during a press availability in Washington, D.C.
The visa restrictions were being imposed under the Immigration and Nationality Act that permits the United States to deny entry to any non-citizen the secretary of state believes would have "potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences."
In a statement, the United States' top diplomat named only Huawei of the companies whose employees were affected by Wednesday's actions, describing it as "an arm of the CCP's surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China."
"Certain Huawei employees provide material support to the CCP regime that commits human rights abuses," he said.
The Chinese telecommunications giant has increasingly been the focus of the State Department, which has been lobbying countries to exclude it from participating in their development of fifth-generation mobile networks, better known as 5G, stating it poses a security risk.
On Tuesday, Pompeo congratulated Britain for ordering Huawei from the nation's 5G network over security concerns, stating it had added its name to a growing list of so-called clean countries vowing to be free of questionable 5G vendors.
"This isn't about commercial interests, this is about protecting information," he told reporters on Wednesday. "This information that transits across these untrusted networks that are of Chinese origin will almost certainly end up in the hand of the Chinese Communist Party."
Last week, Pompeo vowed the United States would deny China access to the private data of Americans and said they were examining the possibility of banning Chinese smartphone applications, such as the TikTok social media app.
In late June, the Federal Communications Commission designated Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese communications company, as national security threats.
Pompeo said the visa restrictions should force other telecommunications companies around to world to take notice.
"If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers," he said.
The visa restrictions also came amid an extradition court case in Canada where police arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in 2018 at the behest of the United States over allegations she violated U.S. trade sanctions on Iran.