BEIJING - China will suspend visits by U.S. warships to Hong Kong and sanction several US nonprofits in retaliation for the Trump administration enacting legislation in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said U.S. nonprofits have instigated protesters "to engage in extreme violent crimes" and have promoted separatism.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed two bills supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, as relations between Washington and Beijing are souring over the protests and an unresolved trade dispute.
"China urges the United States to correct its mistakes and stop any words and deeds that interfere with Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs," Hua said, adding that China would take further actions "in accordance with the development of the situation."
A spokesman for the Pentagon brushed off the suspension of the visit by the warships, saying there would be alternative docking options for the U.S. vessels.
"There are lots of alternatives," said John Supple, the spokesman. "It's not going to break the Navy."
Sanctioned nonprofits include the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, state-run broadcaster CGTN said.
"Repeated assertions by the Chinese government and state media outlets that NED is in any way orchestrating or financing the ongoing protests in Hong Kong are categorically false," the National Endowment for Democracy's president, Carl Gershman, said in a statement.
Gershman called the allegations "a sad attempt to distract from the reality of a genuine grassroots movement among the people of Hong Kong."
The sanctions would take effect on Monday, Hua said, without specifying what the sanctions would entail.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was passed last month by the U.S. Congress with a veto-proof majority, requires sanctions against Chinese officials who are deemed to be violating freedoms and committing serious human rights abuses in the city.
It also requires a review of Hong Kong's autonomy from China, to determine whether the city should benefit from a special trading status with the U.S.
Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous Chinese territory that is guaranteed certain freedoms until 2047.
There are also provisions in the two bills that bar the export of nonlethal crowd-control weapons, like tear gas, to Hong Kong's law enforcement.
Tens of thousands protested again over the weekend in Hong Kong, where demonstrations have been ongoing since June, sparked by a controversial bill that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.
Washington-based Axios reported Sunday a trade deal between Washington and Beijing has stalled due to the legislation.
Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times said the U.S. rolling back of some of the tariffs against China was a precondition for the closing of the "phase one" of a trade deal.
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