China Hits US Entities With Retaliatory Sanctions, Including Wilbur Ross, Over Hong Kong Warnings

In the latest growing tit-for-tat China has hit back at Washington after last Friday the US sanctioned seven Chinese officials related to Hong Kong anti-democracy, pro-mainland policies and crackdown on activists. Part of last Friday’s “message” which resounded loudest was the Biden administration’s direct warning to American companies of “risks of incurring legal and reputational damage if they conduct business in Hong Kong” given the rapidly shifting legal landscape. “The situation in Hong Kong is continuing to deteriorate,” the White House had said days ago. “The risks faced in mainland China are now increasingly present in Hong Kong.”

This angered Beijing enough to now a week later on Friday announced retaliatory sanctions, specifically against six American individuals and one entity – the exact number targeted in the prior US sanctions – but which crucially includes Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Hong Kong file, via Reuters

Earlier Beijing had warned that retaliatory action was coming: “China will respond firmly and forcefully to the measures taken by the United States,” the foreign ministry said last Friday.

Here’s the list, as published in Axios:

  • Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

  • U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Committee chair Carolyn Bartholomew

  • Congressional-Executive Commission on China former staff director Jonathan Stivers

  • National Democratic Institute’s DoYun Kim

  • International Republican Institute associate director Adam King

  • Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson

  • The Hong Kong Democracy Council

The US basis for its initial sanctions, the latest in a series ever since the draconian June 2020 national security law was passed in Hong Kong resulting in pro-independence activists either fleeing or being jailed, is that China is breaking the 2020 Hong Kong Autonomy Act.

Last week’s sanctions and a new White House business advisory arrived just over one year after former President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong’s special status under US law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the former British colony. At the time that major shift was unveiled and announced by Ross himself – thus the symbolism in Friday’s action by Beijing is very clear.

The Biden Administration warned businesses operating in Hong Kong that they are subject to the restrictive national security law which means they’re at risk of electronic and physical surveillance without warrants and of having to surrender corporate and customer data to the Chinese government.

“The situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating,” President Biden had said last week while hosting German Chancellor Angela Merkel for that last time before she leaves office. “And the Chinese government is not keeping its commitment that it made on how it would deal with Hong Kong, and so it is more of an advisory as to what may happen in Hong Kong. It’s as simple as that and as a complicated as that.”

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