China on Friday said it had taken ‘reciprocal’ measures against US diplomats in the country, ordering them to notify the foreign ministry before meeting with local officials.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had notified the US embassy of the new measures on Wednesday, which she said were a ‘countermeasure’ to Washington’s decision in October to restrict Chinese diplomats.
‘We once again urge the US side to correct its mistakes and revoke the relevant rules,’ she told reporters at a press briefing.
In October, the US ordered Chinese diplomats to notify the State Department in advance of any official meetings with US diplomats, local or municipal officials, and before any visits to colleges or research institutions.
At the time, Washington called the move ‘reciprocal’, with a senior State Department official citing the inability of US diplomats to meet with a range of Chinese officials and academics.
On Friday, Hua said that US diplomats would have to notify the foreign ministry five working days in advance, and that China would respond ‘according to the US’s practice.’
The US embassy in Beijing declined to comment.
China’s move to restrict US diplomats comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing spike over human rights issues.
Last week, US president Donald Trump signed a law that supported pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which has been rocked by nearly six months of often violent unrest demanding greater autonomy - which Beijing has frequently blamed on foreign influence.
In response to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, China suspended US warship visits to the territory and said it had imposed sanctions on American NGOs, though it has not released any details on what they entail.
On Tuesday, US lawmakers also voted overwhelmingly to pass a Uighur rights bill, which could impose sanctions against senior Chinese officials over the crackdown on mainly Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang if Trump signs it into law.
Up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities are believed to be held in re-education camps, according to estimates cited by a United Nations panel in 2018.
After initially denying the camps’ existence, Beijing cast the facilities as ‘vocational education centres’ where ‘students’ learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to steer them away from religious extremism, terrorism and separatism.
China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday warned against enacting the Uighur rights bill saying ‘for all wrong actions and words... the proper price must be paid.’
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