China on Monday announced sanctions against 11 U.S. officials with egregious records on Hong Kong affairs, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian at a press briefing.
Zhao made the announcement in response to a request for comment on the so-called sanctions by the U.S. government against 11 officials of the Chinese central government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government.
According to Zhao, China's decision stems from the wrongdoings of the U.S. side. The sanctions, effective from Monday, are applied to U.S. officials, including Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Pat Toomey, Representative Chris Smith, and Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, Derek Mitchell, President of the National Democratic Institute, Daniel Twining, President of the International Republican Institute, Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, and Michael J. Abramowitz, President of Freedom House.
Stating that China firmly rejects and condemns the U.S. government's so-called sanctions against Chinese officials, Zhao stressed that the U.S. behavior openly meddles with Hong Kong affairs, blatantly interferes in China's internal affairs, and gravely violates international law and basic norms governing international relations.
Since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the practice of "one country, two systems" has proven to be an enormous success, Zhao said, and Hong Kong residents enjoy unprecedented democracy and rights and freedoms in accordance with law.
"This is an objective fact no unbiased people will deny," Zhao said.
In the meantime, there are new risks and challenges in the implementation of "one country, two systems," the most prominent of which is heightened national security risk, Zhao added.
When national security in Hong Kong is undermined and confronted with real threats and the HKSAR government had difficulty in completing national security legislation on its own, the Central Government took decisive measures to establish and improve at the state level a legal system and enforcement mechanisms to safeguard the national security in Hong Kong, he said.
"The law on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong targets a small number of criminals who gravely jeopardize national security and protects the law-abiding Hong Kong residents, who represent the vast majority," Zhao said.
He said Hong Kong is part of China and its affairs are entirely China's internal affairs which allow no foreign interfere. "We urge the U.S. side to grasp the situation, correct its mistake, and immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs."
In response to a joint statement on Hong Kong by the foreign ministers of the Five Eyes, namely the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, on Sunday, in which they urged Hong Kong to hold legislative elections as soon as possible, Zhao said China strongly deplores and rejects it.
"It is another evidence of their interference in China's internal affairs and Hong Kong Legislative Council election. China has made stern representations with the relevant countries," Zhao said.
Zhao stressed that the HKSAR government's decision to postpone the elections in the face of the raging pandemic is a justified and necessary step to ensure people's safety and health, as well as a safe, fair and just election.
According to Zhao, more than 60 countries and regions have postponed national or local elections due to COVID-19. For example, Britain announced in March that local elections in places like England originally scheduled in May would be postponed to May 2021.
"It is the epitome of double standards that the Five Eyes chose to interpret the HKSAR government's decision in a twisted political way," Zhao said.
He noted that at a recent UNHRC session, 70 countries supported China's formulation of the law and condemned interference in China's internal affairs by using Hong Kong as a cover.
"This reflects the common voice and just position of the international community," Zhao said, adding that the Five Eyes can by no means represent the international community.