China Hits Back at U.S. Over New Sanctions, Says They Expose Pompeo's 'Malicious Intention'

China is retaliating against the U.S. for announcing new sanctions against 14 individuals of the National People's Congress earlier this week.

On Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the country is revoking visa exemptions for U.S. diplomatic passport holders visiting Hong Kong and Macau and imposing sanctions on some members of Congress.

"China has decided to take action against U.S. executive officials, congressmen, nongovernmental organization personnel and their immediate family members who have performed badly on Hong Kong-related issues," ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

"At the same time, China has decided to cancel the visa-free treatment for temporary visits to Hong Kong and Macau by U.S. diplomatic passport holders," she said.

The announcement comes four days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled the latest U.S. move to punish Beijing over its controversial national security law in Hong Kong.

That law, passed in June, aims to prevent, stop and punish acts identified as secession (breaking away from the country), subversion (undermining the power and authority of government), terrorism (using violence and intimidation) and foreign interference. The passing of the law was met with large pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong and backlash from the U.S. government.

On Monday, Pompeo barred 14 officials, including the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and the chief prosecutor of the government's Supreme People's Procuratorate, as well as their families, from entry into the U.S.

US Embassy China
A policeman stands in front of the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, China, on July 27. China imposed new sanctions against U.S. diplomats and Congress members on Thursday after the U.S. barred 14 Chinese officials from entering America. Noel Celis/AFP

Pompeo also made comments later in the week referring to Chinese authorities as "jackbooted thugs" and calling out the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for declining to host his address on national security threats posed by China.

On Thursday, Hua addressed Pompeo's speech, saying it "fully exposes his malicious intention to damage friendly exchanges and cooperation between China and the U.S."

"Pompeo's speech is full of ideological prejudice and tries to smear China, the Communist Party and educational exchanges between China and the U.S.," Hua said.

The U.S. government has continued to attack China for what it sees as an erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The U.S. Embassy said that Chargé d'Affaires Robert Forden, who has led the U.S. mission to China since October, "reiterated the United States' deep concerns over Beijing's ongoing assault against the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people guaranteed to them in the Sino-U.K. Joint Declaration."

"He emphasized that many countries, not just the United States, are deeply troubled by the erosion of freedoms and rights in Hong Kong and by China's actions that have undermined the autonomy promised Hong Kong under the joint declaration," in a statement released Thursday by the embassy.

In a statement to Newsweek, a State Department spokesperson said the agency is aware of the sanctions but has yet to receive clarification on whom they include. The State Department is also urging Beijing to cease the restrictions on diplomatic passport holders.

"We reject these retaliatory measures," the spokesperson said. "As Secretary Pompeo has said, we will continue to hold the PRC accountable for undermining Hong Kong's promised autonomy and civil liberties under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-registered treaty, and call on Beijing to abide by its international obligations."

This story was updated on December 14 with comments from the State Department.