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Beijing censures US sanctions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian takes a question at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

China's Foreign Ministry has strongly censured the latest US financial sanctions on Chinese officials over Hong Kong, demanding Washington immediately stop interfering in its internal affairs.

The warning, by spokesperson Zhao Lijian, came at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday after the US sanctioned an additional two dozen Chinese officials over Beijing’s recent decision to overhaul the autonomous city’s electoral system.

The sanctions, announced late on Tuesday, were introduced under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act (HKAA). Many figures on the list released by the State Department had previously been barred by the former President Donald Trump administration from traveling to the US. 

Zhao said that the sanctions imposed on the basis of the HKAA had severely interfered in China's internal affairs, exposing the US's evil intentions to obstruct China's stability and development.

He said that the National People's Congress (NPC)'s March 11 decision to improve HKSAR's electoral system is a major measure to safeguard fundamental interests.

The spokesman called on the US side to immediately correct mistakes and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs.

The relations between the two world powers have grown increasingly tense over the past years.

The United States actively supported the protest leaders and attempted to stir anti-China sentiments in Hong Kong.

Anti-government protests started in Hong Kong in June 2019 over a proposed extradition bill, which was later shelved. The demonstrations, however, continued for the next several months and became more violent, endangering the lives and property of local citizens. Protesters also called for Hong Kong’s secession.

The national security law was introduced to avert secession and foreign interference. China says the United States in particular incited the unrest in Hong Kong. 

Elsewhere in his remarks, Zhao said that China firmly opposes the recent US-Japan joint statement, which maliciously attacked China's foreign policy and its growing influence in the Pacific region. 

The joint statement released in Tokyo after a meeting between high-ranking US and Japanese officials expressed the two countries' concerns over multiple issues related to China. 

“Japan’s joint statement with the US targeting China showed it was willing to depend on the pleasure of the US for its selfish purposes, and it downgraded Japan as the US’ strategic appendage,” Zhao said. 

"The United States and Japan have no right to unilaterally define international relations, let alone impose their own standards on others." 

This is while the Chinese foreign ministry has already warned that the US-Japan alliance should not target any third party. 

The latest developments come just hours before talks were set to begin between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Chinese officials in Alaska, the first such meeting since President Joe Biden took office. 

The Biden administration has generally backed the tougher approach to China initiated by Trump.

Under Trump, diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing had dropped to the lowest level in decades.

The two countries are currently at loggerheads over numerous issues, including trade, technology, Taiwan, navigation in the East and South China Seas, and the coronavirus pandemic, besides Hong Kong.

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