The United States on Friday announced imposing visa restrictions on officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), accusing them of undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move, saying he was carrying out President Donald Trump's orders.
"Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on current and former CCP officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, as guaranteed in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong," Pompeo said.
Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions, he said.
The US-China ties have worsened since the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China, hit the United States.
China's security legislation for Hong Kong prompted Trump to initiate a process to eliminate special economic treatment that has allowed Hong Kong to remain a global financial centre.
In a statement, Pompeo called on China to honour its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration -- namely that Hong Kong will 'enjoy a high degree of autonomy' and that human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, will be protected by law and respected by governing authorities in Hong Kong.
The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these concerns, he said.
Pompeo alleged that the CCP has stepped up efforts to undermine Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy by announcing Beijing's authority to 'supervise' Hong Kong's governance, accusing at least one member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council of misconduct, and moving to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong.
"Beijing's continued actions undermine its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration to respect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy.
"At the same time, Beijing continues to undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong by putting pressure on local authorities to arrest pro-democracy activists and disqualify pro-democracy electoral candidates," he said.
A day earlier, the United States Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan Hong Kong Autonomy Act, authored by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Pat Toomey.
The Hong Kong Autonomy Act would impose mandatory sanctions on entities that violate China's obligations to Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. The legislation would also impose mandatory secondary sanctions on banks that do business with the entities in violation of the Basic Law.
Meanwhile, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) expressed concern about the effect that the Chinese Communist Party's proposed national security legislation will have on religious freedom conditions in Hong Kong.
"Hong Kong has long been living proof that religious freedom and Chinese culture can coexist in harmony no matter what the Communist Party claims," noted USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer.
"This new national security legislation would potentially expand the Chinese Communist Party's war on faith in the mainland to hundreds of thousands of believers in Hong Kong," he said.
The US Senate on Thursday also passed a resolution condemning the Chinese Communist Party's proposed 'national security law' for Hong Kong that would ban secession, subversion, and foreign interference.