BEIJING [Reuters] – China said Monday that it would suspend visits to Hong Kong of US warships and impose sanctions on several non-governmental groups based in the United States, in a reign mostly symbolic for the harsh human rights legislation that the president Trump signed last week.
Hua Chunying, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said the measures were a response to "irrational behavior,quot; from the United States. He denounced the new human rights legislation as an illegal interference in his internal affairs.
In her comments, Ms. Hua also accused several organizations, including the National Foundation for Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, of instigating violence during anti-government protests that have convulsed Hong Kong since June. It is not clear what form Chinese sanctions would take to these groups.
Without citing evidence, Ms. Hua said that these groups supported "anti-Chinese forces in creating chaos in Hong Kong, and encouraged them to participate in extreme violent criminal acts."
"They have a great responsibility for the chaos in Hong Kong, and they deserve to be sanctioned and pay the price."
China has responded to the new legislation with strong rhetoric, but the measures announced Monday suggested that Beijing was not willing to let the dispute extend to its trade negotiations with the United States.
It was not clear what impact, if any, the sanctions would have on the groups that China has chosen as punishment. Most organizations that Ms. Hua named do not have offices in mainland China. Foreign non-governmental groups have already been subject to increasing pressure from the Chinese government since 2016, when the country passed a wide-ranging law that strictly regulates its operations in the country.
China has also previously denied permission to US naval ships to dock in Hong Kong during times of strong tensions between the two countries, mainly in August.
"It's nothing new," said Willy Lam, a political expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "I think the main objective of this is rhetorical: try to convince the world that the United States, whether the C.I.A. or the N.G.O.s, is trying to foster a color revolution in Hong Kong."
But with the slowdown in the Chinese economy and the emergence of new tariffs, rhetoric could only go so far. "China really needs this trade agreement," said Lam.
China's reaction was widely expected Last Thursday, China pledged reprisals after Trump signed the two bills, which authorized sanctions for officials responsible for human rights abuses and prohibited the sale of crowd control equipment made in the United States to Hong Kong . Chinese officials in Beijing summoned the US ambassador, Terry Branstad, by law.
Hong Kong police have tried to quell months of increasingly violent anti-government protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper gas. On Sunday, protesters waving American flags peacefully marched to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong to thank Washington for passing the law. Later in the day, protesters in other places clashed with police officers who fired tear gas, the first major confrontation since prodemocratic protesters won a radical victory in local elections that were widely seen as a referendum on the movement. .
Claire Fu contributed to the investigation.