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China imposes sanctions on Toomey, 10 other US officials

The Associated Press
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., takes an escalator down in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

BEIJING — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey was among 11 American politicians sanctioned Monday by China over their positions and statements relating to unrest in Hong Kong.

Toomey, R-Pa., joined fellow Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz among those singled out by Beijing.

"China’s communist leaders are sanctioning American lawmakers who have the audacity to point out their egregious violations of longstanding commitments made to the people of Hong Kong in the Basic Law," Toomey said. "My response to being sanctioned is simple: I stand with the people of Hong Kong.”

Toomey said that China has specifically been attempting to "stamp out democracy and fundamental freedoms," citing the jailing of newspaper publishers, election rigging and surveillance of Hong Kong citizens.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday said the 11 had “performed badly” on issues concerning Hong Kong, where China has cracked down on opposition voices following its imposition of a national security law in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city last month.

The number of Americans named by the ministry exactly equals the number of Hong Kong and Chinese officials placed on a sanctions list by the U.S. last week over the crackdown.

Toomey has been a vocal critic of Beijing's increasingly aggressive posture in Hong Kong. Earlier this year, he co-authored the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which resulted in the U.S. sanctions imposed on 11 Chinese officials. 

China showed its determination to defy such pressure on Monday by arresting leading independent media tycoon Jimmy Lai and raiding the publisher’s headquarters.

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“The relevant actions of the U.S. blatantly intervened in Hong Kong affairs, grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs and seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing on Monday.

“China urges the U.S. to have a clear understanding of the situation, correct mistakes and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and interfering in China’s internal affairs.”

Others named by the foreign ministry included Sens. Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Rep. Chris Smith. National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, National Democratic Institute President Derek Mitchell, International Republican Institute President Daniel Twining, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth and Michael Abramowitz, President of Freedom House, were also on the list, according to Zhao.

Beijing had already placed a travel ban on Rubio, Cruz and Smith last month after Washington announced similar measures against Chinese officials linked to measures taken against Muslims in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang.

The standing committee of China’s national legislature passed the National Security Law last month, bypassing the city’s Legislative Council and the public, where such legislation has faced stiff opposition for years.

The move came in response to months of sometimes violent anti-government protests last year that Beijing said were encouraged by foreign forces in a bid to overthrow Chinese rule. The  former British colony had been handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework meant to last until 2047.