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US Issues Visa Restrictions on Chinese Officials Suspected of Rights Abuses

FILE - Flags of U.S. and China are displayed at AICC's booth during China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing.
FILE - Flags of U.S. and China are displayed at AICC's booth during China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing.

The U.S. State Department has issued additional visa restrictions on Chinese officials suspected of human rights abuses.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Monday that the visa restrictions affect Chinese officials who the United States believes are responsible for or complicit in “repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic minority groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists” and others.

"China’s authoritarian rulers impose draconian restrictions on the Chinese people’s freedoms of expression, religion or belief, association, and the right to peaceful assembly. The United States has been clear that perpetrators of human rights abuses like these are not welcome in our country," he said.

Pompeo said family members of the targeted individuals could also face visa restrictions.

The move comes in the final month of U.S. President Donald Trump's administration. It also comes at a time when U.S.-China relations have grown tenser over a range of issues, including China’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, a new national security law in Hong Kong, and tensions in the South China Sea.

On Friday, the United States added dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist over alleged human rights abuses and ties to China’s military. In response, China called on Washington to stop its “arbitrary suppression” of Chinese companies.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department tightened travel visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members, allowing only one-month single-entry visas where 10-year multiple-entry visas were previously allowed.

U.S. officials said the measure was needed to “protect our nation from the CCP’s malign influence.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry called the restrictions “an escalation of political suppression by some extreme anti-Chinese forces in the U.S.”

The State Department currently advises Americans to “reconsider travel” to China, because of the arbitrary enforcement of local laws. This month the department updated the guidance to also advise Americans to reconsider traveling to Hong Kong, because of the new national security law. The department warns Americans that they could be subject to exit bans and arbitrary detentions by China’s government without due process of law.