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China sanctions U.S. lawmakers, non-profit leaders over Hong Kong

By
Jean Lotus
Beijing issued tit-for-tat sanctions against U.S. lawmakers and non-profit chiefs. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE
Beijing issued tit-for-tat sanctions against U.S. lawmakers and non-profit chiefs. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- China announced sanctions Monday against U.S. lawmakers and the heads of several U.S. non-profit organizations over their support for Hong Kong.

China's Foreign Ministry announced sanctions on Republican Sens. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

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The ministry also reaffirmed sanctions against three other GOP lawmakers issued last month after U.S. criticism about military exercises in the South China Sea. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, were hit with sanctions in July, along with U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J. and Sam Brownbeck, President Donald Trump's ambassador for international religious freedom.

"In response to those wrong U.S. behaviors, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a statement published by the BBC.

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Monday's actions by Chinese officials also included public sanctions against the heads of several U.S. non-government organizations that have supported Hong Kong protesters in the past: National Endowment for Democracy, National Democratic Institute, Human Rights Watch, International Republican Institute and Freedom House.

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The sanctions are considered a symbolic tit-for-tat retaliation for the Trump administration's sanctions imposed Friday on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other Hong Kong officials the White House deems responsible for Hong Kong's new national security law.

Also Monday, media tycoon Jimmy Lai was among several arrested in a raid on the Hong Kong offices of local newspaper Apple Daily.

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Human rights groups have worried that Beijing's new security law will be used to punish pro-democracy dissidents, critics and media organizations.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the law as the "death knell" for the former British colony's autonomy from mainland China. Last week, foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain issued a statement stating they are "gravely concerned" about Hong Kong's recent decision to postpone Legislative Council elections for a year and to disqualify 12 pro-democracy candidates.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, responded to the actions of the foreign ministry on Twitter: "The Chinese government just announced unspecified 'sanctions' against me. That is little more than an effort to distract attention from its wholesale assault on the rights of the people of Hong Kong."

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