A US consulate representative (centre L) comes out to collect a letter from a group of pro-China activists holding placards and flags outside the US Consulate General in Hong Kong on June 26, 2020, a day after the US Senate unanimously approved a bill that would lay out sanctions on Chinese officials who undermine Hong Kong's autonomy as Beijing pushes forward with a controversial security law. Photo: AFP

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The United States said Friday it was restricting visas for a number of Chinese officials, accusing them of infringing on the autonomy of Hong Kong.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would restrict visas for unspecified current and former officials of the Chinese Communist Party “who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms.”

The officials who were targeted were “responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” which Beijing promised before regaining control of the territory in 1997, Pompeo said.

“The United States calls on China to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Pompeo said in a statement, calling for protections of “freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.”

China is moving forward on a security law that would enforce punishment over subversion and other perceived offenses in Hong Kong, which saw massive and occasionally destructive pro-democracy protests last year.

Activists say the law would effectively undo the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong, one of the world’s premier financial hubs.

But the Chinese embassy in Washington insisted in a statement that “no one has any legal grounds or right to make irresponsible comments on Hong Kong affairs citing the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

“We urge the US side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw the decisions and stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs. The Chinese side will continue to take strong measures to uphold national sovereignty, security and development interests,” it continued.

Pompeo’s action comes one day after the US Senate approved a bill that would lay out economic sanctions against Chinese officials and Hong Kong police as well as banks that do transactions with them.

Supporters of the bill, which needs to be passed by the House of Representatives, say they want to impose real costs on Chinese officials rather than just issue condemnations.

– AFP

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