Beijing is considering tightening visa restrictions for US nationals with ties to anti-China groups, Reuters cited unnamed Chinese sources as saying on Thursday.
One of the sources claimed that the move comes in response to new US visa restrictions on high-ranking Chinese government officials that were announced by Washington on Tuesday, as well as the US’ tighter rules for visas for Chinese scholars, introduced in May.
“This is not something we want to do but we don’t seem to have any choice,” the source pointed out, referring to China’s decision to slap visa restrictions on certain US nationals.
According to the source, a visa blacklist includes employees from a host of US military and CIA-linked institutions and rights groups, which were allegedly used by Washington to incite anti-government protests in both mainland China and Hong Kong.
“The plan has been widely discussed by senior police officers over recent months, but was made more likely to be implemented after the Hong Kong protests and the US visa ban on Chinese officials,” the source said.
China’s National Immigration Administration, which operates under the Ministry of Public Security, has yet to comment on the matter.
US Slaps Visa Restrictions on Senior Chinese Officials
On Wednesday, Beijing lashed out at the “grim plans” of the United States following the visa restrictions announced by Washington against Chinese officials over allegations of human rights violations in the Chinese province of Xinjiang.
The attitude of the United States regarding the situation in Xinjiang “will only further expose their sinister designs against the Chinese people and the international community”, China's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington, in turn, protested the US move, which “seriously violates the basic norms governing international relations, interferes in China's internal affairs and undermines China's interests”.
“China deplores and firmly opposes that”, an embassy spokesperson said, cited by Reuters.
The spokesperson added that "Xinjiang does not have the so-called human rights issue claimed by the US," and suggested that "the accusations by the US side are merely made-up pretexts for its interference".
The remarks follow US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Tuesday that Washington had imposed the visa restrictions "on Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang”.
The August 2018 UN report claimed that up to one million ethnic Uyghurs were being held in the so-called re-education camps. Beijing denied the existence of such camps, insisting that the claims have not been substantiated and arguing that the facilities are vocational colleges set up as part of counter-terrorist efforts in the region.
The US and China’s tit-for-tat visa restriction moves come as the two countries remain embroiled in a trade spat which began in mid-2018, when President Trump announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports to help address a $400 billion+ trade deficit that he claimed was caused by China’s “unfair trade practices”. Since then, Washington and Beijing have exchanges hefty tariffs against each other.