World

China sanctions American NGOs over US’ Hong Kong rights law

BEIJING: China suspended US warship visits and sanctioned US non-governmental organisations yesterday in retaliation for the passage of a Bill backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The financial hub has been rocked by nearly six months of increasingly violent unrest demanding greater autonomy, which Beijing has frequently blamed on foreign influence.

Last week, US President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the US president to annually review the city's favourable trade status and threatens to revoke it if its freedoms are quashed.

The move came as the world's two biggest economies have been striving to finalise a "phase one" deal in their trade war.

"In response to the unreasonable behaviour of the US side, the Chinese government has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for US warships to go to Hong Kong for (rest and) recuperation as of today," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said.

China had already denied requests for two US Navy ships to dock in Hong Kong in August, without specifying why.

"Operationally... it doesn't really make a difference for the US as it can use many naval bases in the region," Assistant Professor Michael Raska, a security researcher at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University said.

However, it "sends a signal that US-China tensions will continue to deepen".

The last US Navy ship to visit Hong Kong was the USS Blue Ridge in April. - AFP

WORLD