China has announced unspecified sanctions against 11 US politicians and heads of organisations promoting democratic causes, including senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the 11 had “performed badly” on issues concerning Hong Kong, where China has cracked down on opposition voices following its imposition of a national security law in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city last month.
The number of Americans named by the ministry exactly equals the number of Hong Kong and Chinese officials placed on a sanctions list by the US last week over the crackdown.
China showed its determination to defy such pressure by arresting leading independent media tycoon Jimmy Lai and raiding the publisher’s headquarters.
“The relevant actions of the US blatantly intervened in Hong Kong affairs, grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, and seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations,” Mr Zhao said.
“China urges the US to have a clear understanding of the situation, correct mistakes, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
Others named by the foreign ministry included senators Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton and representative Chris Smith. National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, National Democratic Institute president Derek Mitchell, International Republican Institute president Daniel Twining, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, and Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, were also on the sanctions list, according to Mr Zhao.
Beijing had already placed a travel ban on Mr Rubio, Mr Cruz and Mr Smith last month after Washington announced similar measures against Chinese officials linked to measures taken against Muslims in the north-western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The standing committee of China’s national legislature passed the National Security Law last month, bypassing the city’s Legislative Council and the public, where such legislation has faced stiff opposition for years.
The move came in response to months of sometimes violent anti-government protests last year that Beijing said were encouraged by foreign forces in a bid to overthrow Chinese rule over the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework meant to last until 2047.