China has hit back at foreign sanctions with its own anti-sanctions bill.
The National People's Congress Standing Committee passed the bill yesterday to counter what it called discriminatory foreign sanctions.
With the law, Beijing wants to give legal status to its countermeasures against the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada sanctioning Chinese officials, entities and state bodies.
Hong Kong's sole delegate to the National People's Congress standing committee, Tam Yiu-chung, said in Beijing yesterday that 16 clauses in the law endorse the State Council to decide, suspend or change anti-sanction measures.
Measures would include not to issue visas, banning someone from entering China and deporting them from the country, Tam said.
It can also freeze the assets of those targeted by anti-sanctions and ban Chinese individuals and organizations from engaging in trade with them.
Tam said the law, to take immediate effect after President Xi Jinping signed it, also demands all groups or individuals in China not to implement sanctions laid against Chinese citizens.
They will also have to carry out the countermeasures adopted by the Chinese State Council, or they could be prosecuted.
Tam said he supported the legislation, describing the measures as "an eye for an eye." They would allow China to fight back when foreign countries "bully" the country.
But Tam said the law does not mention how it could be implemented in Hong Kong and Macau, adding that the law should be listed in Annex III of the Basic Law to be enforced in Hong Kong.
Asked about the positive impact the bill has on Hong Kong officials being sanctioned by the US, including himself, Tam said he considered the legislation at the national level and did not think about the impact on himself.
Tian Feilong, director of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said the anti-sanction law is a "legal weapon" for China to counter external intervention.
The US and other western countries had imposed sanctions on the mainland and Hong Kong officials because of issues related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang, which have challenged China's bottom line, Tian said.
In the past, China mainly fought back through administrative measures imposed by the Foreign Ministry or the Commerce Ministry, Tian said.
"The law allows the Chinese government to adopt some measures that could make other countries more painful and cost them more. That's why this 'legal weapon' has a deterrent effect."
Tian said Hong Kong should cooperate with the mainland countermeasures.
"In the past, the Hong Kong government did not have the resources and power to fight back against foreign sanctions. Therefore, they must be supported by China's legal actions," he said.
Since August last year, 35 Hong Kong and mainland officials have been sanctioned by the US for undermining Hong Kong's autonomy, including Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor' Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah; Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu; the director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, Xia Baolong; and the director of the Office for Safeguarding National Security, Zheng Yanxiong.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Wang Wenbin, said yesterday the new law would not affect the relationship between China and other countries.
He said Beijng has announced multiple times that it would impose countermeasures to protect its sovereignty, dignity and core interests and fight against western hegemony.
But foreign companies looking to do business in China will have to face increasing scrutiny from the mainland authorities in relation to their operations both locally and abroad, Shaun Wu of law firm Paul Hastings told Reuters.
The European Union Chamber of Commerce also told Reuters that its members are alarmed at the lack of transparency about the passing of the bill.
"China seems to be in a hurry," said chamber president Joerg Wuttke. "Such action is not conducive to attracting foreign investment or reassuring companies that increasingly feel that they will be used as sacrificial pawns in a game of political chess."