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Senate Appropriations Hearing in Washington

US announces visa restrictions on Chinese officials for undermining autonomy of Hong Kong

A State Department spokeswoman declined to say how many people were affected or even if they would all be denied entry to the United States. There is speculation that it could enact the new law.

Hong Kong enjoys semi-autonomous control in the region due to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which established sovereignty after the British released Hong Kong from imperial rule and handed it over to China in 1997.

"The CCP has stepped up efforts to undermine Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy by announcing Beijing's authority to "supervise" Hong Kong's governance, accusing at least one member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council of misconduct, and moving to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong", he said in a statement.

Hong Kong has been rocked by pro-democracy protests which have had a knock-on effect on the financial hub with local GDP falling by 2.8 per cent and 3 per cent in the last two quarters of 2019, and 8.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2020. No one has any legal grounds or right to make irresponsible comments on Hong Kong affairs citing the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the embassy added: "We urge the USA side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw the decision and stop interfering in China's domestic affairs".

Photo taken on August 5, 2019 shows China's national flag and the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) on the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong, China.

Hong Kong was always meant to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.

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The announcement of the visa policy came a day after the US Senate passed a bill, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, that would place economic sanctions in the US on Chinese officials and Hong Kong police identified as working to damage Hong Kong's autonomous status.

Van Hollen said he hopes Trump will sign the bill, but also raised concerns that the White House could have already imposed sanctions under current law and that "despite some statements from the secretary of state, this administration is still taking no action" to rebuff China on Hong.

U.S. -China relations have worsened since the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China, hit the United States.

The Hong Kong sanctions bill nearly passed last week, Van Hollen said, but was blocked by Republican Senator Kevin Cramer - who had co-sponsored it - at the request of the Trump administration, which made a late request for technical corrections.

CNN has reported that with Trump's re-election prospects uncertain and the economy struggling as the November vote nears, advisers close to Trump, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, believe the President should take a harder line with China.

But Mr Trump is also hopeful that China will implement a bilateral trade deal and has praised President Xi Jinping personally.

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