China announced sanctions Monday on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and two other congressional Republicans in retaliation against President Donald Trump’s administration for pursuing similar punishment last week against four Chinese officials.
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said the U.S. action had “seriously damaged China-U.S. relations,” according to the Associated Press.
“Xinjiang affairs are China’s internal affairs, and the U.S. has no right to interfere in them,” she told reporters in Beijing, referring to U.S. officials alleging sweeping human rights abuses against minority Uighur Muslims in a far western region of of China.
She offered no details on what exactly the sanctions against Cruz and others might entail, though they are likely to include a ban on entering China.
Cruz and the others – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith – have long been prominent China hawks, criticizing the communist regime for its treatment of pro-democracy movements, minority groups and faith communities.
In October, the Texan visited Hong Kong, assailing Beijing as a “dictatorship” that sought to crush widespread and vocal dissent in the semi-autonomous region.
“It’s really an unfortunate dynamic how China uses its vast resources to promote censorship, and all of our allies are facing this increased aggressiveness of China,” he said at the time, calling the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong “inspiring.”
Aides didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the sanctions.
Cruz serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and has pushed legislation to pressure China on multiple fronts.
He has sometimes clashed with Trump over China policy, pressing the president in November to take a harder line against Beijing’s brutal crackdown in Hong Kong.
The latest moves between the U.S. and China underscore a crumbling diplomatic relationship. Last week the Trump administration issued sanctions against four Chinese officials and a Chinese government agency over the human rights violations.
Tensions also remain over the coronavirus pandemic that began in China, and over trade negotiations that have fizzled in recent months.
China’s retaliation against Cruz and others – also including Sam Brownback, Trump’s religious freedom ambassador – is largely symbolic. None of the four had any immediate plans to travel to the U.S., according to the AP.
In fact, Cruz may welcome the sanctions, as blowback from Beijing has become a badge of honor for China hawks, particularly in the GOP.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a Houston Republican, cheered in May when one Chinese news outlet – not an official organ but one aligned with the government – reported that the country was considering sanctions against him and other U.S. lawmakers for “abusing litigation against China.”
Rubio on Monday appeared to be unbothered by Beijing’s retaliation.
“The Communist Party of #China has banned me from entering the country,” he wrote on Twitter. “I guess they don’t like me?”
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