In a continuation of China and the United States’ diplomatic tit-for-tat over Hong Kong, China announced on Monday that it is imposing visa restrictions on U.S. officials who have “behaved badly” in regards to the semi-autonomous territory.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian revealed the restrictions at a press conference, with the state-run tabloid Global Times reporting that the targets of the new measures “know exactly who they are.” The move comes as China prepares to impose a controversial national security law on the semi-autonomous territory, one seen as a tool for quashing dissent that the U.S. and other Western nations have urged Beijing to withdraw.
"The US attempt to block China's efforts to advance the national security legislation for Hong Kong through so-called sanctions is doomed to fail," Zhao said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which would allow for sanctions on Chinese officials, Hong Kong police, and even financial institutions that deal with them if they are seen as threatening the city’s autonomy. The bill is also expected to pass in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a statement on Friday, June 26, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that his department was also moving ahead with visa restrictions on “current and former” Chinese Communist Party officials who were involved in “undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
Sino-U.S. relations were strained last year by a bruising trade war and U.S. officials’ expressions of support for a pro-democracy protest movement that rocked the city for months. The protests, which Beijing blamed on foreign interference, prompted China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, to demand the introduction of the national security law.
Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House that Hong Kong’s special status would be revoked, and warned of sanctions against officials in mainland China and Hong Kong.
“China’s latest incursion… makes clear that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant the special treatment that we have afforded the territory since the handover,” said Trump.
Trump’s announcement was met with pushback from Hong Kong’s officials in the pro-Beijing camp, who defended the necessity of the national security law, though its precise provisions remain unknown, even to Hong Kong’s leaders.
Chinese top lawmakers met on Sunday for the start of a three-day session where they might vote for the passage of the national security legislation.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.