China will sanction some U.S. officials and curb diplomatic travel

China said it will sanction more U.S. officials and place new travel restrictions on American diplomats in retaliation for measures taken by the Trump administration over Hong Kong.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying didn’t provide specific names of those sanctioned, but said they included people in the executive and legislative branches and their immediate families, as well as non-government organizations. China would also revoke visa-free entry to Hong Kong and Macau for U.S. diplomatic passport holders, Hua told a regular briefing in Hong Kong on Thursday.

The U.S. announced sanctions Monday against 14 members of China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s rubber-stamp legislature, as President Donald Trump tries to ratchet up pressure on Beijing before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The U.S. has taken a slew of actions against Beijing in recent weeks, including restricting travel visas for Communist Party members and banning cotton imports from a military-linked firm in Xinjiang.

A spokesperson at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing declined to comment on China’s latest sanctions but referred to a statement expressing concerns about Beijing’s actions toward the financial hub.

Hong Kong has continued to be rocked by political upheaval in recent weeks. Last month, China passed a resolution allowing the disqualification of Hong Kong lawmakers who weren’t deemed sufficiently loyal — prompting opposition legislators to resign en masse. Prominent activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow were also sentenced to prison for leading a 2019 protest outside police headquarters, the latest in a series of moves by Chinese and local officials to clamp down on the city’s battered opposition.

While Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has complained about U.S. sanctions limiting her access to banking services, many American officials targeted by China’s “firm countermeasures” have seen little impact other than the assumption that they wouldn’t be welcomed in China. Beijing’s ability to hit back is limited by the U.S. dollar’s dominance in international finance.

The greenback accounted for a far larger share of global banking transactions, as the Communist Party resists calls to ease currency controls. That makes it more difficult for multinational banks — including China’s state-run lenders — to avoid compliance with U.S. sanctions.(Updates with US embassy comment in fourth paragraph)

–With assistance from Iain Marlow.

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