China sanctions 11 US citizens including Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz | China

China has placed sanctions on 11 US citizens, including legislators and the heads of several US-based non-governmental organisations, in the latest tit-for-tat measure over a national security law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing.

In response to a similar move by the US last week, China’s foreign ministry said on Monday it would target US citizens who have “behaved egregiously on Hong Kong-related issues”.

Without specifying what sanctions would entail, the ministry named the Republican senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley and Pat Toomey, the Republican representative Chris Smith, and the heads of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.

On Friday the US announced sanctions on Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, as well as 10 other senior Chinese and Hong Kong officials, freezing any US-based assets and barring travel to the US. It was not clear whether any of the officials targeted had property or assets in the US.

Lam has said she does not “particularly like going to the US” and does not have assets there. Luo Huining, the head of China’s liaison office in Hong Kong and among the Chinese officials to be sanctioned, mocked the measure as useless.

“Being put on the US sanctions list just means that I have done what I should do for the nation and Hong Kong,” he said on Saturday. “Isn’t such a ‘sanction’ in vain as I don’t have any assets abroad? Of course, I can also send $100 to Mr Trump for freezing.”

Observers say China’s move is also mostly symbolic, given that few US officials have assets in China. Chinese officials often have family and in some cases property in the US. Lam’s son, a student at Harvard, has reportedly gone missing since late July after telling a roommate he urgently needed to return to Hong Kong.

Tit-for-tat sanctions are the latest front of an escalating rivalry between China and the US, whose ties have deteriorated over issues including Huawei, human rights violations in Xinjiang, the security law in Hong Kong and ramped-up US support for Taiwan.

China previously announced sanctions against Rubio, Cruz and other US officials in response to similar punishments for Chinese officials connected to policies in Xinjiang that have led to the mass detention and surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

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