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China sanctions 11 US politicians, heads of organizations

US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is one of 11 Americans sanctioned by China.
US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is one of 11 Americans sanctioned by China.ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/File 2020/AFP via Getty Images

BEIJING — China on Monday announced unspecified sanctions against 11 US politicians and heads of organizations promoting democratic causes, including Republican Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, who had already been singled out by Beijing.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday said the 11 had “performed badly” on issues concerning Hong Kong, where China has cracked down on opposition voices following its imposition of a national security law in the semiautonomous southern Chinese city last month.

China showed its determination to defy such pressure on Monday by arresting leading independent media tycoon Jimmy Lai and raiding the publisher’s headquarters.

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The number of Americans named by the foreign ministry exactly equals the number of Hong Kong and Chinese officials placed on a sanctions list by the United States last week over the crackdown.

Four other lawmakers were named by the ministry, all Republicans: Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey.

Cotton said he was sanctioned for defending the victims of Communist Party rule, including Hong Kong students fighting for democracy.

“Chinese Communism is the most dangerous threat to freedom in the world, and I will never back down from fighting it,’’ he said in a statement.

The others sanctioned were National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, National Democratic Institute president Derek Mitchell, International Republican Institute president Daniel Twining, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth, and Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

Beijing already placed a travel ban on Rubio, Cruz, and Smith last month after Washington announced similar measures against Chinese officials linked to measures taken against Muslims in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang.

The standing committee of China’s national legislature passed the National Security Law last month, bypassing the city’s Legislative Council and the public, where such legislation has faced stiff opposition for years.

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The move came in response to months of sometimes violent antigovernment protests last year that Beijing said were encouraged by foreign forces in a bid to overthrow Chinese rule over the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems’’ framework meant to last until 2047.