The Chinese regime on July 23 imposed retaliatory sanctions against several American individuals, including former U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials involved in Beijing’s clampdown in Hong Kong.
The sanctions are the first imposed by Beijing under its new anti-foreign sanction law, passed in June, and come days before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to visit China amid deeply strained ties.
The Chinese regime said it imposed “reciprocal counter-sanctions” on an entity and six individuals, who are current and former representatives of a range of organizations, including the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Other organizations targeted were the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch, and the Washington-based Hong Kong Democracy Council.
The regime’s foreign ministry, in a statement, slammed a recent U.S. business advisory on Hong Kong and U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong, describing it as actions that “seriously violated international law and the basic principles of international relations, and seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs.”
In response, the White House said it was undeterred and remained “fully committed to implementing all relevant U.S. sanctions authorities.”
“These actions are the latest examples of how Beijing punishes private citizens and companies, and civil society organizations as a way to send political signals,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing on Friday.
Last week, Washington imposed sanctions on more Chinese officials over their role in stifling democracy in Hong Kong. It also issued a warning about the deteriorating business conditions in the city, which has seen a dramatic rollback of its freedoms since Beijing imposed a draconian national security law last June.
It was the second time this year that China has imposed sanctions on officials who served under former President Donald Trump, who adopted a tough line on the communist regime and confronted it over trade, business practices, human rights, and other issues.
Around the time Biden was sworn in as president in January, China announced sanctions against outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 27 other top Trump officials.
Last year, Beijing also slapped sanctions on several U.S. lawmakers known for advocating for human rights in China and other individuals from think tanks and nonprofits.
“Americans of both parties oppose these outrageous moves to target those who defend universal human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Psaki said.
“Beijing’s attempt to intimidate and bully internationally respected NGOs, only demonstrates its further isolation from the world,” she added.
Samual Chu, managing director of advocacy group Hong Kong Democracy Council, the entity sanctioned by Beijing, said being targeted by Beijing was a “badge of honor.”
“Beijing can sanction us, but it only affirms our effectiveness, strengthens our resolve, and lays bare their shameful repression for the world to see,” Chu said in a statement.
Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson, who was also sanctioned on Friday, described the move as a distraction.
“No one should be distracted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ ‘diplo-tantrum du jour.’ Instead, everyone should be laser-focused on ending the human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government,” she said in a statement.
Ross could not be immediately reached for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.