The State Department on Tuesday condemned China’s imposition of sanctions on a number of U.S. senators and called it an attempt by Beijing to “extend authoritarian rule beyond its borders.”
“We condemn these actions, which indicate the Chinese Communist Party has no tolerance for public discussion of human rights and freedom of expression both within and beyond its borders,” a State Department spokesperson said.
China announced on Monday that it would impose sanctions on 11 U.S. citizens — including Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
It did not specify what the sanctions were, but Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the 11 had “performed badly” on issues concerning Hong Kong, where the Chinese have been engaged in an incursion on long-held freedoms in the territory after it passed a national security law to deal with protests.
The U.S. has responded to the crackdown with a number of measures, and last week announced it was sanctioning Hong Kong Executive Carrie Lam and a number of other top officials over their role in Beijing’s incursions.
The others sanctioned by the Chinese include Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Noth and Derek Mitchell, President of the National Democratic Institute.
“We condemn indictments against American citizens for exercising the right to free expression,” the State Department said. “We reject Beijing’s attempt to extend authoritarian rule beyond its borders. These measures are not for national security but intended to intimidate and silence free speech both inside and outside Hong Kong.”
Lawmakers targeted by the sanctions reacted in a similar way.
“These toothless sanctions won’t have much effect on me, but that’s because they were never about me in the first place,” Cotton said in a Fox News op-ed. “They’re meant to scare potential critics of the Chinese Communist Party into shameful silence and even complicity. The message is clear: the Party is always watching and ready to punish its enemies.”
Fox News’ Rich Edson contributed to this report.