US administration officials and Republican Senators are quietly working behind the scenes to come up with ways to “punish” China for its handling of the ongoing Hong Kong protests, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday, citing three sources familiar with the situation.
The report comes after US President Donald Trump refused to openly confront Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the G7 summit in France, instead calling him a “great leader".
According to sources, the punitive measures being considered range from travel bans to freezing the assets of certain Chinese leaders.
“Since Day One of this administration, China has been a national security concern. The protests in Hong Kong are just another example of why we should be focusing our attention on finding ways to push back against Beijing", one source said. “We’ve been taking other routes to confront China, especially economically. This would be another step in the game plan. The draft legislation is in a lot of ways going to look like some of the sanctions we implemented with Russia".
Republican Senators are reportedly working on legislation to impose sanctions on China. The nature of the sanctions to be imposed remains undisclosed, as discussions reportedly began weeks ago.
“The administration has been looking at options for some time now", one senior Trump official said. “But now things are starting to move forward and the legislation on the Hill will crystalize once Congress comes back. We’ve been looking at smart ways to address the crackdown and this is definitely a start".
Protests in Hong Kong began in March this year after the autonomous city government proposed a bill that would allow the extradition of criminals to a number of territories, including Taiwan and mainland China. Currently, criminals wanted in China are said to be hiding in Hong Kong in a bid to evade prosecution.
Beijing has condemned the demonstrations as radical and illegal and has stressed the need to counter the vandalism by some protesters. It has also urged respect for the law and denounced what it calls foreign meddling in support of the protesters.
Protests escalated in August, with reports of violent attacks on police, property, and bystanders by the protesters. The violence prompted Beijing to begin assembling troops around Hong Kong, sparking criticism from Western nations.