Beijing's retaliatory move follows Washington's accusations against 11 Hong Kong officials of suppressing "freedom and democratic processes" in the financial hub, including city leader Carrie Lam.

US Senator Ted Cruz (L) and Senator Marco Rubio (R), both targets of the most recent wave of Chinese sanctions.
US Senator Ted Cruz (L) and Senator Marco Rubio (R), both targets of the most recent wave of Chinese sanctions. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

China has announced unspecified sanctions against 11 US politicians and heads of organisations promoting democratic causes, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who have already been singled out by Beijing.

The sanctions were announced by Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who 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 move follows Washington's accusation that 11 Hong Kong officials were suppressing "freedom and democratic processes" in Hong Kong last week, including city leader Carrie Lam. 

The US also announced plans to freeze their US assets.

It was the toughest US action yet in response to Beijing's introduction of a sweeping and controversial new national security law for the territory.

Beijing said the measure was a violation of international law and "grossly interferes in China's internal affairs".

READ MORE: Hong Kong, Chinese officials condemn sanctions imposed by US

Tit for tat

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 US last week over the crackdown.

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

“The relevant actions of the US 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," Lijian said.

“China urges the US 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."

READ MORE: US sanctions Hong Kong leader and other officials

US election year

The US measures come three months ahead of the November presidential election in which the incumbent Donald Trump, who trails his rival Joe Biden in the polls, is campaigning hard on an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

As public disapproval has grown for his handling of the pandemic, Trump has pivoted from his previous focus on striking a trade deal with China to blaming the country for the coronavirus crisis.

Washington and Beijing have sparred on multiple fronts in recent months, and both sides have already imposed sanctions on each other over China's mass internment of mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Trump on Thursday ordered Americans to stop doing business within 45 days with popular Chinese apps WeChat and TikTok.

The order claimed TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.

READ MORE: Instagram moves to fill void if TikTok gets banned in US

'Double standards'

Zhao said on Monday that Washington's Hong Kong-related sanctions "will only make the world more aware of US hegemony, bullying and double standards."

Others named by China's foreign ministry included Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Pat Toomey and Representative 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.

Beijing 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 over the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems" framework meant to last until 2047.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies