China Retaliates Against U.S. Diplomats, Including in Hong Kong
China’s national flag in Hong Kong. (Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

China Retaliates Against U.S. Diplomats, Including in Hong Kong

Beijing said it will take unspecified retaliatory measures against U.S. diplomats in China, including those working in Hong Kong, following earlier moves by the Trump administration to limit the ways Chinese diplomats can operate on U.S. soil.

China notified the U.S. of the “reciprocal” measures being taken against its diplomats, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a statement on Friday evening, without giving any details.

“The U.S. practice has severely violated international law and basic norms governing international relations and disrupted China-U.S. relations and normal exchanges between the two sides,” Zhao said.

State Department officials largely dismissed the restrictions, saying U.S. diplomats in China have long worked under severe limitations when doing routine diplomatic work and that most of the announced measures weren’t new. They also said that China provides “disincentives” for Chinese citizens and officials to meet with American diplomats.

The officials said China informed the U.S. that American envoys have to seek approval from the foreign ministry before meeting with students and local officials, or visiting educational institutions, research labs or local government facilities. The U.S. must also pre-notify the ministry when hosting cultural events with more than 50 people outside the embassy compound.

The U.S. was also told to submit a list of all official social media accounts.

The Chinese announcement came after Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier this month unveiled new rules on Chinese diplomats designed to match those already imposed on American diplomats in China. Under those updated rules, senior Chinese diplomats must seek approval to visit university campuses or meet with local government officials.

Sanctions Bite

Unlike some U.S. sanctions, which have had a significant impact on Chinese technology and financial firms, as well as some officials, Chinese sanctions sometimes appear to mean little.

None of the dozen American individuals sanctioned since July have received notice of what the penalties would entail, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Beijing’s pledged sanctions against U.S. firms including Lockheed Martin Corp., which sells weapons systems to Taiwan in defiance of China, have also had little impact, according to some industry analysts.

The new developments come as the two super powers engage in a broader tit-for-tat battle on everything from trade and technology to media accreditation and diplomatic protocols.

The administration of President Donald Trump has taken a range of measures, from hitting out at Chinese technology companies to slapping sanctions on officials in Hong Kong and imposing stricter requirements for Chinese journalists in the U.S. China has also expelled U.S. journalists.

In July, the State Department also ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” prompting China to days later shut the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.