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US Imposes Visa Restrictions on Hong Kong Officials Over Crackdown

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US Imposes Visa Restrictions on Hong Kong Officials Over Crackdown

(CTN News) – The United States announced on Friday that it will put new visa restrictions on several Hong Kong officials in response to the Chinese-led crackdown on human rights and freedoms.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that China has continued to take moves against Hong Kong’s promised high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and rights and freedoms during the last year, including the recent passage of Article 23, a new national security statute.

“In response, the Department of State is announcing that it is taking steps to impose new visa restrictions on multiple Hong Kong officials responsible for the intensifying crackdown on rights and freedoms,” the statement stated.

The statement did not specify which officials will be targeted.

In November, Hong Kong opposed a US bill imposing sanctions on 49 Hong Kong officials, judges, and prosecutors involved in national security cases, claiming it was an attempt to intimidate the city.

Officials named in the Hong Kong Sanctions Act included Secretary of Justice Paul Lam, Police Chief Raymond Siu, and judges Andrew Cheung, Andrew Chan, Johnny Chan, Alex Lee, Esther Toh, and Amanda Woodcock.

The US has previously placed immigration restrictions and sanctions on Hong Kong authorities, who have been accused of weakening freedoms. It has also ended the territory’s unique economic treatment under US law.

It has also warned that foreign financial institutions doing business with them will face sanctions.

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The US Hong Kong Policy Act mandates that the State Department submit an annual report on Hong Kong conditions to Congress.

“This year, I have again certified that Hong Kong does not warrant treatment under U.S. laws in the same manner as the laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997,” Blinken said, referring to the date when Britain returned Hong Kong to China.

“This year’s report catalogs the intensifying repression and ongoing crackdown by PRC and Hong Kong authorities on civil society, media, and dissenting voices, including through the issuance of bounties and arrest warrants for more than a dozen pro-democracy activists living outside Hong Kong,” Blinken said, about the People’s Republic of China.

According to the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, Blinken’s findings and words “confused right and wrong” and “stigmatized” Hong Kong’s national security law and electoral system.

A spokeswoman released a statement on Saturday stating that the threat to prosecute Hong Kong officials “grossly interferes” with Hong Kong and Chinese internal matters.
“Instead of acting as the world’s policeman and issuing an annual ‘Hong Kong Policy Act report’, the United States should take time to examine itself.”
China’s embassy in Washington condemned and strongly rejected US intentions to “impose unwarranted unilateral sanctions” on Hong Kong.

According to the embassy’s website, “the U.S. side disregards facts, makes irresponsible remarks about Hong Kong affairs, and levels groundless accusations” against the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.

“The US should immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and other internal affairs of China,” the statement stated.

Radio Free Asia, a US-funded organization, suspended its Hong Kong bureau on Friday due to staff safety fears after the new national security law.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese authority with the assurance that its high autonomy and liberties would be safeguarded under the “one country, two systems” principle.

In recent years, numerous pro-democracy politicians and activists have been imprisoned or sent into exile, while liberal media outlets and civil society organizations have been closed down.

In a joint statement, 145 community and advocacy groups slammed the security measure and called for punishment on officials involved in its approval. They also requested a review of the status of Hong Kong’s Economic & Trade Offices globally.

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