China on Monday announced that it imposed sanctions on five U.S. non-government organizations for their support of Hong Kong protesters and involvement in “radical criminal activities.”
The designations by Beijing, of the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, follow U.S. President Donald Trump’s signature late Wednesday of a law overwhelmingly passed by Congress authorizing sanctions on China for its handling of protests in Hong Kong.
“Despite China’s resolute opposition, the U.S. insisted on signing [the law], which seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations...China urges the U.S. to correct its mistakes and stop any actions that interfere with Hong Kong and China’s affairs,” the Chinese government said in a statement.
Chinese officials cited by AFP declined to specify the measures taken against the U.S. nonprofits. Beijing also barred U.S. military ships and aircraft from visiting Hong Kong.
The U.S. law authorizes sanctions relating to those undermining the autonomy of, and committing human rights abuses in, Hong Kong. It also requires an annual State Department certification that Hong Kong remains autonomous, or the city will lose a special trade status. Trump acknowledged on Monday that the law could complicate trade talks with China.
Hong Kong has been engulfed by protests for months. Protesters returned over the weekend after a relative period of calm in which pro-democracy candidates won a landslide in elections. Police fired pepper spray and tear gas in response. Office workers walked out on Monday to lunchtime protests, with some organizers calling for them to continue throughout the week.
The protests are taking a toll on the local economy. Hong Kong’s retail sector is slipping at a record pace, according to data released Monday by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, as the economy slipped into recession in the last quarter, which ended Sept. 30.