Jul 23, 2021 - World

China sanctions Wilbur Ross, 5 other Americans over Hong Kong warnings

Wilbur Ross

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese government imposed sanctions on Monday against six Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to an advisory from the Biden administration warning businesses of the increased risks of operating in Hong Kong.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of China responding furiously to U.S. attempts to shed light on human rights abuses in places like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which Chinese officials routinely condemn as "interference" in domestic affairs.

Details: Six Americans and one entity have been sanctioned as a "reciprocal" countermeasure to U.S. sanctions against seven Chinese government officials working in Hong Kong, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry:

  • Former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross
  • U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Committee chair Carolyn Bartholomew
  • Congressional-Executive Commission on China former staff director Jonathan Stivers
  • National Democratic Institute's DoYun Kim
  • International Republican Institute associate director Adam King
  • Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson
  • The Hong Kong Democracy Council

What they're saying: "The US has concocted the so-called 'Hong Kong Business Advisory' to groundlessly smear Hong Kong's business environment, and illegally imposed sanctions. ... These acts gravely violate international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely interfere in China's internal affairs," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

The big picture: A U.S. advisory published last week alerted firms to the "growing risks" of doing business in Hong Kong, where a national security law imposed by the central government in Beijing has decimated the territory's once-lauded political freedoms.

  • The advisory warned of the heightened risk of warrantless electronic surveillance, and it cited the crackdown on pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily as an example of the new dangers of doing business in the city.
  • It came days after a similar advisory was issued for firms with business and operations in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has been accused of carrying out a genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

Context: Beijing's sanctions come days before Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is set to become the highest-ranking Biden administration official to visit China.

Go deeper: Hong Kong's status as a financial center seems safe, for now

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