China sanctioned former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and six other U.S. individuals or entities in retaliation for human rights penalties levied against the Chinese government Friday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the sanctions were a response to the recent Hong Kong Business Advisory issued by the State Department earlier this month, which warned U.S. companies against engaging in business activity in Hong Kong due to a series of risks. On Friday, China accused the U.S. of engaging in behavior that “gravely” violates international law.
“I would like to stress once again that Hong Kong is China’s Special Administrative Region and its affairs are an integral part of China’s internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a statement on Friday.
“Any attempt by external forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs would be as futile as an ant trying to shake a big tree,” he continued.
He added that the business advisory groundlessly smears Hong Kong’s business environment. The sanctions were levied in accordance with China’s recently-passed Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, which gives its government sweeping powers to respond aggressively to foreign sanctions, Lijian said.
While it remains unclear why Wilbur Ross was among those sanctioned, the former Commerce secretary spearheaded U.S. efforts to combat Chinese aggression during his time in office. Last June, Ross stripped Hong Kong of its preferential trade partner status and instituted a rule prohibiting U.S. entities from exporting weapons and sensitive technology to the city-state, The Financial Times reported.
Tensions in Hong Kong ramped up in 2019 after Beijing passed a law enabling the government to extradite Hong Kong citizens to mainland China. Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens participated in mass protests in response, which were some of the largest in Hong Kong history, according to The New York Times.
“We are undeterred by these actions and we remain fully committed to implementing all relevant U.S. sanctions on authorities,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday, CNBC reported. “These actions are the latest examples of how Beijing punishes private citizens, companies and civil society organizations as a way to send political signals and further illustrates the PRC’s deteriorating investment climate and rising political risks.”
US-China Economic and Security Review Commission chair Carolyn Bartholomew, former Congressional-Executive Commission on China staff director Jonathan Stivers, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs executive DoYun Kim, International Republican Institute senior program manager Adam Joseph King and Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson were sanctioned as well.
The Washington, D.C.-based Hong Kong Democratic Council was the sole entity to get targeted by Friday’s sanctions.
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