China slaps sanctions on former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and 6 others

China launches 'reciprocal' sanctions following a U.S. business advisory in Hong Kong

China announced Friday it had imposed sanctions on former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and six other individuals and entities in retaliation for U.S. penalties against Chinese officials in Hong Kong.

The "reciprocal" sanctions are in response to a business advisory issued by the State Department last week warning U.S. companies of "emerging risks" in conducting business in Hong Kong. 

The Chinese foreign ministry accused the U.S. of attempting to "groundlessly smear" Hong Kong business. 

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"These acts gravely violate international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely interfere in China's internal affairs," the ministry said in a statement Friday. "China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this."

The sanctions were imposed under China’s new Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law that was passed last month and target Ross, who served in the Trump administration, along with the chair of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission Carolyn Bartholomew, former staff director of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Jonathan Stivers, and Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch’s China.

Top officials from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the International Republican Institute were also named. 

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Sanctions were further imposed on the Hong Kong Democratic Council, though the Chinese foreign ministry did not go into detail as to how the sanctions will be enacted. 

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The announcement comes just days before Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is set to visit China amid strained U.S.-China relations. 

The White House told reporters Friday it is "undeterred" by China’s latest move. 

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"These actions are the latest examples of how Beijing punishes private citizens, companies, and civil society organizations as a way to send political signals," press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Psaki condemned the sanctions as an effort to "target those who defend universal human rights and fundamental freedoms."