BEIJING/WASHINGTON: China said on Friday that it has imposed counter-sanctions on U.S. individuals including former U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in response to U.S. sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong.

The sanctions are the first imposed by China 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.

China also imposed unspecified “reciprocal counter-sanctions” on current and former representatives of a range of organisations, including the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

Other institutions named included the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Washington-based Hong Kong Democracy Council.

“The U.S. side concocted the so-called Hong Kong business advisory, baselessly smeared Hong Kong’s commercial environment, and illegally sanctioned Chinese officials in Hong Kong,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“These actions seriously violated international law and the basic principles of international relations, and seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs,” the ministry said.

The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest Chinese measures, which came after Washington imposed sanctions last week on more Chinese officials over Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong.

The U.S. government last week also warned of a deteriorating business conditions in the former British colony that return to Chinese control in 1997.

Ross could not be immediately reached for comment.

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 Beijing 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. ?The Biden administration called that move “unproductive and cynical.” Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson, who was sanctioned by China by name on Friday, called the move “hollow.”

“These are diplomatic tantrums that are designed to distract attention away from Beijing’s complicity in crimes against humanity,” she said, referring to China’s alleged human rights abuses in its western region of Xinjiang. China has dismissed the accusations.


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