Dubai: China's Foreign Ministry said the government is sanctioning seven people and entities, including former US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in retaliation for a Biden administration warning to businesses about working in Hong Kong.
The move Friday invokes a new law to hit back against sanctions by the U.S. and its allies.
"The US has concocted the so-called 'Hong Kong Business Advisory' to groundlessly smear Hong Kong's business environment, and illegally imposed sanctions on several officials," according to the statement. "In response to the erroneous practice of the U.S. side, China has decided to take reciprocal countermeasures."
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded later Friday that the U.S. remains "undeterred by these actions" and that the move only illustrates China's "deteriorating investment climate and rising political risk."
Ross, 83, was singled out along with people including Carolyn Bartholomew, chairman of U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch and Jonathan Stivers, a former staff director of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, according to the statement.
Others named were DoYun Kim of the National Democratic Institute and Adam Joseph King of the International Republican Institute. In addition, the Hong Kong Democratic Council was sanctioned.
The US said last week that China's push to exert more control over Hong Kong threatens the rule of law and endangers employees and data in the financial hub. The Biden administration cited the National Security Law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing last year as among the key threats in a "new legal landscape" confronting the former British colony.
Psaki said Friday that the new sanctions provide fresh evidence of China punishing "private citizens, companies and civil society organizations as a way to send political signals" and that "Americans of both parties oppose these outrageous moves to target those who defend universal human rights and fundamental freedoms."
China's move is the latest tit-for-tat between the world's two biggest economies over issues including Hong Kong, human rights in Xinjiang and renewed probes into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the decision by China is also more symbolic than substantive, given that Ross left his post at the end of the Trump administration in January.