China hit out on Wednesday at U.S. President Donald Trump's signing of a new law removing Hong Kong's special status and imposing sanctions on officials linked to the implementation of a draconian new security law.
The ruling Chinese Communist Party vowed on Wednesday to impose retaliatory sanctions on U.S. individuals and entities after Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and ended Hong Kong's preferential trade treatment.
The foreign ministry said Beijing strongly opposes the latest U.S. action, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
The Hong Kong Autonomy Act "maliciously slanders" national security legislation imposed by Beijing on the city. "China will make necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests, and impose sanctions on relevant U.S. personnel and entities," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
In the latest U.S. response to the national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing on June 30, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act provides for "sanctions on foreign persons, entities, and financial institutions that contribute to China's actions to remove autonomy from Hong Kong," the White House said in a statement.
Trump said China should be held accountable for its "aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong," adding that the city would now be treated like the rest of China, instead of as a separate legal jurisdiction and trading economy.
The move signals an end to Hong Kong's trading privileges and special economic treatment, and includes an export ban for sensitive technologies.
The vaguely worded new security law threatens anyone criticizing the Chinese or Hong Kong authorities anywhere in the world.
China's feared state security police have now set up a headquarters in the city to implement its ban on actions and speech deemed subversive, pro-independence, or "terrorist" in inclination, although the definitions have already been criticized as impossibly vague by overseas legal experts.
The law will also target anyone seen to be "colluding with foreign powers," including receiving training and funding.
Trump's Executive Order offers some reassurance to U.S. residents in that it terminates the country's extradition agreement with Hong Kong, as it could be used to return peaceful critics of China to the country to face trial under the new law.
Anyone involved in enforcing the national security law will be included in the list of targets for sanctions, which could include visa bans and freezes or seizures of their U.S. assets.
Anyone involved "directly or indirectly, in the coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning of individuals" under the law, and anyone involved in "developing, adopting, or implementing" it could be targeted, apparently including the city's police force and many high-ranking officials in Hong Kong and Beijing.
Police, security training ends
One surprise revelation in Trump's Executive Order noted by Hong Kong activists was the cessation of training to the city's police force.
The order says the U.S. must "take steps to end the provision of training to members of the Hong Kong Police Force or other Hong Kong security services at the Department of State’s International Law Enforcement Academies."
Activists quipped on social media that such training could be deemed "collusion with foreign forces," ridiculing earlier claims from supporters of China that the CIA had directed last year's anti-extradition movement from behind the scenes.
The Hong Kong Autonomy Act also requires the U.S. government to take action against any foreign individual for "materially contributing" to the violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, which promised that Hong Kong would retain its traditional freedoms of speech, association, and publication for 50 years from the 1997 handover.
The treaty and the Basic Law also promised that no Chinese government department would be allowed to intervene in the day-to-day running of the city's affairs, a provision which has been ignored with the imposition of a new national security enforcement regime under Beijing's direction.
Pro-China politician and Executive Councillor Regina Ip said the measures were "very unreasonable."
"The transfer of fugitives will end, and there will be no more 10-year visiting visa for Hong Kong residents visiting the United States," she said.
US assets also at risk
Chinese commentator Jiang Shan said the U.S. could also see the seizure of its citizens' assets in Hong Kong.
"There's the consulate in Hong Kong and its land, the assets of its private enterprises, for example," Jiang said.
"There are many headquarters [of U.S. entities], many investment banks have their Asia Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong," he said. "The U.S. holds a lot of Hong Kong stocks and financial markets hold trillions of dollars."
Former 2014 protest leader Joshua Wong welcomed the Act, saying it showed Beijing that its actions would backfire.
He said it was time for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to recognize that they "broke the promise of the Sino-British joint declaration."
"Eroding the freedom of Hong Kong should not be the way out, otherwise more and more action might be taken by world leaders in the future," he said in comments reported by government broadcaster RTHK.
Reported by Tseng Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.