China slaps first sanctions on US over Hong Kong bill

China will impose sanctions on US-based pro-democracy and human rights groups in response to a recent US law supporting protesters in Hong Kong.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday NGOs, including the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute had acted "badly" during nearly six-months of unrest in Hong Kong.

Read more: Hong Kong: What's the significance of the local election results?

It's unclear what, if any, impact the symbolic sanctions on would have on the ground.

The foreign ministry also said China will suspend US Navy visits to Hong Kong.

What prompted China's response?

China had vowed to take strong countermeasures after US President Donald Trump late last month signed into law two Hong Kong related bills that were overwhelming passed by Congress.

One piece of legislation requires the State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong's autonomy is not compromised. It also allows the US to impose sanctions for human rights abuses.

A second bill banned the export of crowd-control munitions, such as teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns, to Hong Kong security forces.

China feels the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act "seriously interfered'' in Hong Kong's internal affairs.

The bills came as the US and China are trying to strike a trade deal amid fears that an escalating trade war is impacting global markets.

What is the situation in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong's has experienced nearly six months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests triggered by a now-shelved bill that would have allowed extraditions to China.

The protests broadened into a movement calling for democratic reforms and police accountability, and has been driven by concerns that China is encroaching on freedoms in Hong Kong that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

cw/rt (AFP, AP)

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