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US puts visa restrictions on Chinese officials over tensions with Hong Kong

US puts visa restrictions on Chinese officials over tensions with Hong Kong
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit King of Jordan becomes first Arab leader to speak with President-elect Biden Central Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention MORE on Friday announced that the U.S. will impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials found to be involved in Beijing’s efforts to exert more control over Hong Kong.

The move marks the first concrete steps taken by the U.S. against China over its expected national security legislation, which critics argue violates Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing outlined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and that established the “one country, two systems" rule. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE promised to punish the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Today, we are taking action to do just that.”

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The secretary said the visa restrictions will apply to current and former officials of the Chinese Communist Party “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” in violation of the 1984 declaration, “or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.”

Pompeo added that the visa restrictions may also apply to family members. A State Department spokesperson said visa records are confidential under U.S. law and that the agency would not provide the names of any officials who fall under the restrictions.

The Trump administration announced in May that the U.S. would no longer view Hong Kong as autonomous from Beijing, setting up the State Department's ability to impose sanctions and visa restrictions as outlined in the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and reinforced with the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

The new visa restrictions announced by Pompeo come one day after the Senate passed a resolution condemning Beijing for its moves over Hong Kong and passed legislation providing the ability to impose sanctions on individuals and "entities" that materially contribute to an erosion of freedoms in the territory.

Pompeo held a rare face-to-face meeting last week with Yang Jiechi, China's top diplomat, in Hawaii at a time where relations between Washington and Beijing are at an all-time low.

President Trump has called for holding China accountable for the spread of the novel coronavirus and criticized its influence over international bodies like the World Health Organization. Pompeo has also called on allied countries to reject Beijing's efforts to invest in critical infrastructure projects, saying such deals pose threats to national security.