The soap opera of the reciprocal sanctions between Beijing and Washington is back. This Thursday it was the turn of the Xi Jinping government, which has announced measures against some congressmen, and the end of visa exemptions for US diplomats who want to visit Hong Kong or Macao. On Monday, it was the Donald Trump administration that had announced the ban on entering his country for fourteen senior Chinese officials.
The truce between the two capitals following the US elections had been unraveling for weeks. Last month, the outgoing Administration in Washington, willing to maintain its hostile position towards China until the last moment – and make it difficult for the future Joe Biden Administration to change the course of bilateral relations – had already imposed sanctions on companies it considered who collaborated with the Chinese Army.
Now, the new clash revolves around one of the issues that have precipitated the deterioration of ties between the two capitals this year: Hong Kong and the new National Security law that Beijing has imposed on its autonomous territory.
The fourteen senior officials vetoed by Washington in Monday’s announcement are all vice-presidents of the People’s National Assembly (PNA), the Chinese Parliament and the body that passed the draconian law on June 30, which punishes with penalties up to life imprisonment. behaviors that are considered terrorist, separatist or collusion with foreign powers. Not included in the measure, however, was Li Zhanshu, president of the ANP and formally second in the Chinese political hierarchy.
Beijing, which on Monday summoned the American charge d’affaires Robert Forden – to the front of the Embassy temporarily – to express its protest, waited for this Thursday to announce reciprocal measures.
In its daily press conference, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has specified that Beijing will impose sanctions on legislators, personnel of non-governmental organizations, and officials of the US Executive who have “behaved badly” in relation to the former British colony. These sanctions, spokeswoman Hua Chunying has indicated, will also be extended to the immediate relatives of those punished. Beijing has so far not identified the specific individuals on whom the measures will be imposed.
In addition, the visa exemption enjoyed by US diplomats who wanted to travel to Hong Kong or Macao is withdrawn. From now on, they will have to apply for a travel permit.
According to a statement from the US Embassy, Forden met this Thursday with the Deputy Secretary General of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Assembly, Hu Xiaoli, to express Washington’s concern about “the continued attack by Beijing against the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people who guarantee them ”the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the document that laid the groundwork for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
“He emphasized that many countries, not just the United States, are deeply concerned by the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, and by Chinese actions that have undermined the autonomy promised to Hong Kong in the joint statement,” the statement continues.
Following the passage of the National Security Law, the Hong Kong authorities, with the backing of Beijing, have stepped up the arrests of activists and representatives of the Democratic opposition in the autonomous enclave on charges related to the mass protests last year.
The exchange of sanctions – not only around Hong Kong, but also the treatment of the Uighur minority in the Chinese province of Xinjiang – has been a constant since the entry into force of the measure. The United States had already announced punishments, among others, against representatives of the Hong Kong autonomous government, including the chief executive, Carrie Lam. In turn, Beijing had imposed them against US lawmakers. In July, amid mutual accusations of espionage, the two countries ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and the US consulate in Chengdu, respectively.
Almost simultaneously with the imposition of sanctions against the fourteen officials on Monday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi launched a call to relaunch relations between the world’s two main economies. Speaking to the Sino-American Business Council, just over a month after Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States, Wang urged “to resume the dialogue, get back on the right path and regain mutual trust in the new phase of ties ”between the two countries.
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