China imposes sanctions against Cruz, Rubio, other US lawmakers over Hong Kong

Sens. Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Pat Toomey and Rep. Chris Smith also targeted

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said it would apply sanctions against 11 U.S. citizens including officials from Monday in response to Washington's move on Friday to impose sanctions on 11 Hong Kong and Chinese officials whom it accused of curtailing political freedoms in the city.

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Among those targeted were Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Pat Toomey and Representative Chris Smith, as well as individuals at non-profits and rights groups.

"In response to those wrong U.S. behaviors, China has decided to impose sanctions on individuals who have behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing on Monday.

He did not specify what the sanctions entail.

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Relations between the two countries have deteriorated over issues ranging from trade to Hong Kong and China's handling of COVID-19.

Hawley, Rubio and Cotton.

Beijing's move is the latest in a tit-for-tat round of sanctions between China and the United States over allegations of rights abuses and interference.

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Washington on Friday imposed sanctions on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam as well as the city's current and former police chiefs, under an executive order signed by President Donald Trump.

Those sanctions freeze any U.S. assets owned by the officials and generally bar Americans from doing business with them.

The U.S. lawmakers targeted by Beijing on Monday have been vocal critics of a new national security law that expands Beijing's authority in Hong Kong.

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Last month, China announced sanctions against Cruz, Rubio, Smith and other U.S. officials after Washington penalized senior Chinese officials over the treatment of Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

Beijing's latest measure also includes new sanctions against the heads of the U.S.-based campaign groups Freedom House and Human Rights Watch. Both had were been subjected to sanctions in December in relation to Hong Kong.

It also imposed sanctions on the heads of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Kevin Liffey)