China announced sanctions against 11 Americans on Monday to retaliate for U.S. sanctions against 11 Chinese officials involved in the oppression of Hong Kong, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
The targets of China’s sanctions included six U.S. lawmakers, all of them Republicans, and five executives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with human rights.
The sanctioned American members of Congress were Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, plus Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey. China had previously banned Cruz, Rubio, and Smith from traveling there.
The sanctioned NGO executives were presidents Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy, Derek Mitchell of the National Democratic Institute, Daniel Twining of the International Republican Institute, and Michael Abramowitz of Freedom House, plus Executive Director Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.
“China resolutely opposes and strongly condemns such blatant interference in Hong Kong affairs – China’s internal affairs – as it seriously violated international law and basic principles of international relations,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said when announcing the sanctions.
The Foreign Ministry claimed the sanctioned individuals and their organizations were complicit in challenging the “One Country, Two Systems” principle of Beijing’s control over Hong Kong, supposedly “recognized around the world as a success.”
“I want to reiterate that Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong and Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs that no external forces can interfere in. China urges the US to recognize the situation and correct its wrongdoings, and not to go further and further on the wrong path,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
The Wall Street Journal found some significance in the absence of Trump administration officials from the list of sanctioned individuals while noting the lawmakers on the list are all “Republicans and hawkish on China.”
Sen. Tom Cotton issued a statement taking the Chinese sanctions as a badge of honor and vowing to increase his efforts against Chinese Communist tyranny:
The Chinese Communist Party imposed these impotent sanctions against me because I defend the real victims of Chinese Communism: the millions of Americans harmed by the Wuhan coronavirus, the workers whose factories shut down and moved offshore to China, the businesses and inventors whose property has been stolen, the Chinese Christians and missionaries whose churches have been razed by bulldozers, the Uighurs and other minorities languishing in concentration camps, the Hong Kong students fighting desperately for their democracy, and the Chinese people trapped in a high-tech communist tyranny.
Chinese Communism is the most dangerous threat to freedom in the world, and I will never back down from fighting it. If China thinks my opposition to its communist tyranny to date warrants these sanctions, I have two words for them: just wait.
“China announces it is sanctioning me in retaliation for speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party and defending America’s interests. Retaliate all you want. I’m not backing down,” Hawley responded in a similar vein.
Rubio poked fun at the sanctions on Twitter: “Last month China banned me. Today they sanctioned me. I don’t want to be paranoid, but I am starting to think they don’t like me.” He followed up by posting pictures of himself meeting with Hong Kong democracy activists and said “the free world must stand with them.”
“The U.S. government sanctioned Chinese and Hong Kong officials for repressing Hong Kong’s freedoms. Beijing, in turn, sanctions me and ten others for defending those freedoms. I’m proud to join the countless people in Hong Kong in the pro-freedom camp,” Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said in his response.