US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington imposed visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials suspected of being responsible for the violation of liberties in Hong Kong.
Pompeo said the sanctions targeted “current and former” party officials.
He said the move followed President Donald Trump’s promise to punish Beijing for a security bill that could erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.
China said the US decision was a “mistake” that should be removed.
It comes just days before a meeting of the Chinese Parliament.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress will discuss the new law at its meeting, which will start on Sunday.
China has proposed security legislation that would criminalize Beijing’s power in Hong Kong, and could also see China setting up its own security agencies in the territory for the first time.
The move sparked a new wave of protests against the mainland in Hong Kong.
Friday’s statement by Pompeo, who did not name the Chinese authorities affected by the US visa restrictions, follows a recent vote by the US Senate to impose sanctions on individuals who undermine Hong’s autonomy Kong and the banks that do business with them.
Responding to this decision, the Chinese Embassy in Washington said it “firmly opposes the unwarranted decisions of the American side”.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the embassy added: “We urge the American side to immediately correct its mistakes, withdraw its decision and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs.”
Trump also said last month that he would begin ending trade and travel preferential treatment for Hong Kong in response to China’s plans.
The US president has said that Beijing is replacing “its promised formula of one country, two systems with one country, one system”.
“It is a tragedy for Hong Kong … China has stifled the freedom of Hong Kong,” he added.
The Chinese parliament has already supported the resolution for the new legislation, which is now passing to the country’s top management.
Hong Kong was always supposed to have a security law, but could never pass one because it was so unpopular.
China is now intervening to ensure that the city definitely has a legal framework to deal with what it considers to be serious challenges for its authority.
The law would criminalize any act of:
- secession – break with China
- subversion – undermining the power or authority of central government
- terrorism – use of violence or intimidation against people
- activities of foreign forces interfering in Hong Kong
Experts say they fear the law may see people punished for criticizing Beijing – as happens in mainland China.