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China has suspended U.S. warship visits and sanctioned American NGOs on Monday in retaliation for the passage of a bill backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has been rocked by nearly six months of increasingly violent unrest, which Beijing has frequently blamed on foreign influence.

Last week U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the president to annually review the city’s favorable trade status and threatens to revoke it if the semi-autonomous territory’s freedoms are quashed.

The move came as the world’s two biggest economies have been striving to finalize a “phase one” deal in their protracted trade war.

“In response to the unreasonable behavior of the US side, the Chinese government has decided to suspend reviewing the applications for U.S. warships to go to Hong Kong for (rest and) recuperation as of today,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing.

China had already denied requests for two U.S. Navy ships to dock in Hong Kong in August, without specifying a reason why.

Hua said they would also apply sanctions to a number of US-based NGOs. However, Hua has not given any specifics over the form sanctions would take.

Sanctions will apply to NGOs that had acted “badly” over the recent unrest in Hong Kong, she said, including the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute.

There was “already a large amount of facts and evidence that make it clear that these non-governmental organizations support anti-China” forces and “incite separatist activities for Hong Kong independence”, Hua added.

She accused them of having “great responsibility for the chaotic situation in Hong Kong”.

Hua said the NGOs are inciting protesters to commit “violent crimes” and promoting “separatism” in Hong Kong. These groups are “responsible for the current chaos” in the city, she told reporters.

The spokesperson stressed that the measures are a direct response to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019, which was signed into law by Trump last week.

China slammed the U.S. move as illegal under international law and an attempt to “seriously interfere in Chinese domestic affairs.”

Chinese officials have repeatedly warned Washington against meddling in Hong Kong and accused American politicians, who openly backed the protesters, of encouraging riots there.

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.


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