New Delhi: In a major development, the United States on  Friday slapped visa restrictions on former and current members of China’s ruling Communist Party of China (CCP), whom it deems responsible for what it called ‘evisceration of Hong Kong’s freedoms’. Also Read - 'Shifting US Military From Europe to Counter Chinese Threat to India, Southeast Asia', Says Mike Pompeo

In a tweet, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “President Donald Trump promised to punish the CCP officials responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms. Today, we are taking action to do just that–we’ve announced visa restrictions on CCP officials responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights.” Also Read - 'A Rogue Actor Not Just in Its Neighbourhood': Pompeo Slams Chinese Communist Party

The restrictions, notably, will also apply to family members of the concerned officials.

Separately, the US State Department, in a statement, said, “The US calls on China to honour its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration–namely that Hong Kong will ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy’ and that human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, will be protected by law and respected by governing authorities in Hong Kong”.

This action by the Trump administration comes at a time when tensions between the two countries are high due to the US accusing China of birthing novel coronavirus, spreading it across the world and also hiding its coronavirus figures. Beijing has vehemently denied all the allegations.

Simultaneously, China has also got itself involved in a number of other confrontations, including with India, with whom it is currently witnessing its first major border conflict in five decades. As a result, the US has started shifting its military from Europe to southeast Asia to ‘counter Chinese threats’.

The visa restrictions on Chinese officials pertain to Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, which was handed to it by Britain in 1977 under the ‘One Country, Two Systems Agreement’ under which it has to provide higher autonomy to the region. In recent months, however, Hong Kong has been embroiled in protests against an ‘extradition bill’ which later turned into wider pro-democracy protests.

While the bill itself couldn’t be passed, China recently introduced a new national security law to quell the protests in Hong Kong, triggering criticism from all quarters.