China announces retailiation for US action on Hong Kong

China will impose unspecified sanctions on US-based human rights groups in retaliation for the United States passing legislation that will scrutinise Hong Kong’s human rights record each year and could lead to trade sanctions.

Director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s information department, Hua Chunying, named the National Endowment for Democracy and Human Rights Watch among five groups to be targeted by Beijing.

“These NGOs have supported anti-China plotters who messed up Hong Kong through various means, aiding and abetting them in extreme violent criminal acts and inciting 'Hong Kong independence' separatist activities,” Hua said.

“They are much to blame for the chaos in Hong Kong... these organisations shall pay the price for what they’ve done.”

Protests continue in Hong Kong despite a recent pro-democracy landslide in district council elections.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by both houses of US parliament and signed into law by President Donald Trump. The move has been labelled “interference” by China.

US naval vessels and aircraft will continue to be refused permission to refuel in Hong Kong, as part of the Chinese sanctions. However trade talks between China and the US remain on track.

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth responded by saying the group, headquartered in New York and with staff in 100 countries, was independent and received no government funding.

“Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Hong Kong authorities not to use excessive or unlawful force to suppress peaceful protests and to establish an independent commission to investigate excessive use of force by police,” he said.

“We have called on protesters and individuals who oppose them to refrain from violence.”

Pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong, such as this one on Sunday, have been attributed to foreign interference.

He said the Chinese government should respect the rights of the people of Hong Kong instead of targeting an organisation that seeks to defend them.

China has accused the five non-government organisations (NGOs) - which also include the International Republican Institute, Freedom House and the National Democratic Institute - of “playing a egregious role in the Hong Kong amendment bill disturbance”.

A propaganda video released by Chinese news agency Xinhua after the sanctions were announced claimed NGOs played a “sinister role” in Hong Kong’s unrest and blamed them for inciting a history of colour revolutions from 1989 in Czechoslovakia, to the Ukraine and the Arab Spring.

Suspicion of foreign NGOs saw China overhaul security laws in 2017 to require thousands of NGOs with operations in China, including medical aid and children’s charity groups, to register with police and partner with a local organisation.

NGOs in Beijing were warned as early as June that NGOs with American staff in Hong Kong would likely be blamed by the Chinese foreign ministry for the then-nascent protests, and to take care with their public statements.

However there is no sign in Hong Kong that protests, which continue after five months, are organised by foreign actors.

District council elections in Hong Kong a week ago saw almost 90 per cent of seats won by pro-democracy candidates, and reinforced the fact that local sentiment is driving the protests. Beijing also blamed “foreign interference” for the election result.

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