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China to suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong in retaliation for rights law passage

Beijing also sanctioned the National Endowment for Democracy and Human Rights Watch, saying they had “performed badly.”
Image: Crew members standing on the deck of the USS Blue Ridge during a port call in Hong Kong
U.S. Navy personnel on board the USS Makin Island looking towards the ICC building during a port-of-call visit to Hong Kong on Aug. 20, 2014.Anthony Wallace / AFP - Getty Images

BEIJING — China said on Monday that it would suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong and sanction a range of pro-democracy non-governmental organizations in retaliation for the passage of legislation supporting human rights in Hong Kong by Congress last week.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated accusations that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “seriously interfered” in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and appeared to back up China’s threats the U.S. would bear the cost of the decision.

Along with suspending visits by official U.S. military ships and aircraft, Hua said China would sanction organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch and others that she said had “performed badly” in the Hong Kong unrest.

Hong Kong has seen almost nonstop protests for six months demanding democratic elections and an investigation into police use of force at the demonstrations.

Meanwhile, The Communist Party newspaper Global Times raised crucial ongoing trade talks with the U.S., running several articles that emphasized there would be no deal without a promise to phase out the tariffs imposed by Washington.

The newspaper cited officials saying that China will buy American farm products and the amount “could be substantial, but it cannot promise a specific number in the deal because the amount must be based on market demands.”

The comments come amid negotiations on a preliminary “Phase 1” agreement aimed at resolving the 18-month-old tariff war between the two largest economies.

“Rolling back tariffs is a must. The China-U.S. trade war (was) instigated by the U.S. with tariffs, so the tariffs have to be cut first,” the newspaper quoted Wei Jianguo, a former Chinese commerce minister as saying.

Image: Residents march in Hong Kong and wave an American flag on Sunday.
Residents march in Hong Kong and wave an American flag on Sunday.Nicolas Asfouri / AFP - Getty Images

It said China was already addressing issues such as protection of intellectual property, foreign investment regulations and opening of its financial markets independently of the trade talks.

Chinese officials earlier said the U.S. side had agreed to gradually phase out the tariffs as progress is made on ending the dispute over trade and technology. The U.S. side did not confirm that.

Last week, both sides suggested that they were close to striking a deal. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said he had invited senior U.S. officials to Beijing for further talks. Trump said the talks were in their “final throes” of negotiations.

But that was before China reacted with outrage to Trump’s decision to sign legislation supporting human rights in Hong Kong.