China bans US military visits to Hong Kong in response to Washington’s support for protesters

December 2, 2019
By: Brad Lendon, CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)China will ban US warships and military aircraft from making stops in Hong Kong in the wake of Washington passing legislation supporting the territory's pro-democracy protesters, the country's Foreign Ministry said Monday.

"In response to the unreasonable behaviors of the US side, the Chinese government decides to suspend the review of requests by US military ships and aircraft to visit Hong Kong as of today," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a news conference in Beijing.

Hua also announced that Beijing would impose sanctions on several US non-governmental human rights organizations that have been monitoring and reporting on the protests in Hong Kong.

US President Donald Trump last week signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law after it sailed through both Houses of the US Congress with almost unanimous bipartisan approval.

The new law would permit Washington to impose sanctions or even suspend Hong Kong's special trading status over rights violations.

The USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US Navy's 7th Fleet, makes a port call in Hong Kong in April 2019.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law, China's Foreign Ministry accused the US of "bullying behavior," "disregarding the facts" and "publicly supporting violent criminals."

On Monday it took more concrete action, banning consideration of visits by US warships to one of their longtime ports of call in Asia and a favorite spot for those aboard to get rest and relaxation after long periods at sea.

Just over a year ago, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and ships in its strike group carried some 7,000 personnel into Hong Kong in what at the time was seen as an easing of tensions between Washington and Beijing over China's military buildup in the South China Sea. That visit came after China had denied a similar port call earlier in 2018.

Since the Reagan visit, the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US Seventh Fleet, and the US Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf have made notable stops in Hong Kong, both in April.

But in August, while protests were heating up in the city, China rejected scheduled visits by the amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay and the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie.