BEIJING has launched a visa crackdown on US citizens with links to anti-China groups as tensions between the two countries threaten to boil over.
Ministry of Public Security chiefs are bringing in visa restrictions to limit the ability of anyone employed or sponsored by US intelligence services and human rights groups to travel to China. The measures follow the introduction of US visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities.
Sources said China is drafting a list of US military and CIA-linked institutions and rights groups and naming their employees on visa blacklist.
The tighter restrictions come amid heightened concern in Beijing that the US and other Western governments are using such organisations to incite anti-government protests in both mainland China and Hong Kong.
One source said: “The plan has been widely discussed by senior police officers over recent months, but made more likely to be implemented after the Hong Kong protests and the US visa ban on Chinese officials.”
The latest tit-for-tat visa restrictions began in April when some prominent Chinese scholars had their US visas revoked.
The following month, Washington introduced legislation to prohibit anyone employed or sponsored by the Chinese military from getting student or research visas.
China denounced what it saw as punitive action against its nationals.
Relations between the world’s two biggest economies have nosedived in recent years with clashes over trade, human rights and security feats.
Washington took a major step in confronting China earlier this year when it added tech giant Huawei and 70 affiliates to its so-called Entity List, banning the company from acquiring components and technology from US firms without government approval.
The US believes Huawei’s equipment could be used by Beijing for spying, which the Chinese firm has repeatedly denied.
The US Commerce Department has cited the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims and others in a decision to add 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies to a trade blacklist, including the world’s largest maker of video surveillance gear, Hikvision, and the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup, SenseTime.
The moves have overshadowed trade talks in Washington between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin which are due to get underway tomorrow.