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China blocks all US Navy ship and aircraft visits to Hong Kong over new US human rights law

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) pulls into Hong Kong as part of a scheduled port visit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Richard L.J. Gourley/Released)
December 02, 2019

China is halting all U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong in retaliation for the U.S. signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law last week.

China made the announcement Monday, citing “America’s unreasonable behavior” for the response, sparked by President Trump signing the bill into law on Wednesday to mandate sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses in China and Hong Kong, as well as a yearly review of U.S.-Hong Kong trade ties, CNN reported.

“In response to the unreasonable behaviors of the U.S. side, the Chinese government decides to suspend the review of requests by U.S. military ships and aircraft to visit Hong Kong as of today,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said

Hua said the law interferes with Chinese affairs.

“China urges the United States to correct its mistakes and stop any words and deeds that interfere in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs,” she said.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng also told U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad on Thursday that the law posed “serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious violation of international law,” and was damaging to U.S.-Chinese relations, the Associated Press reported.

Hua said Monday that China will be imposing sanctions on U.S. human rights groups who “performed badly” during the months-long Hong Kong protests, and “further necessary actions” could be taken.

The groups include the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House and more.

“These organizations deserve to be sanctioned and must pay a price,” Hua said, also accusing the groups of influencing protesters to carry out “radical violent crimes and inciting separatist activities.”

Tens of thousands of pro-freedom Hong Kong demonstrators gathered on Thursday to sing the U.S. national anthem and wave American flags in a show of thanks for the new law.

Experts had warned that China would impose consequences with such a move if the bill was signed into law.

“If the U.S. takes sanctions against Hong Kong based on those future reviews, China will take countermeasures,” University of International Business and Economics professor Tu Xinquan told the Associated Press last week.

“The kind of measures will depend on how serious the U.S. actions are,” he added.

China has previously blocked U.S. port visits to Hong Kong for various reasons, including responses to tariffs and freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.