China hits out at US after report of new visa restrictions

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China would "make representations" to the US following Thursday's report in the New York Times.

China on Thursday accused critics in the US government of “an escalation of political suppression” against Beijing following a report of new visa restrictions on members of Communist Party of China and their immediate family members.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China would “make representations” to the US following Thursday's report in the New York Times that such people would be limited to one-month, single-entry visas.

She called Washington’s approach “totally inconsistent with the US’s own interests,” and said it would damage America’s global image.

“I think it is obvious to all that this is an escalation of political suppression by some extreme anti-China forces in the US out of strong ideological prejudice and deep-rooted Cold War mentality against China,” Hua said.

The NYT quoted a spokesman for the US State Department as saying the new policy, which took immediate effect on Wednesday, was a part of ongoing action to protect the United States from the Chinese Communist Party’s “malign influence.”

Previously, Party members, like other Chinese citizens, could obtain US visitor visas of up to 10 years’ duration. The report estimated the new restrictions could theoretically apply to around 270 million people.

The new visa guidelines allow American officials to determine someone’s party status based on their application and interview, the paper reported.

Chinese who make up the single largest group of foreign students at American universities have already complained of tougher conditions for obtaining or extending visas. Chinese academics have also faced greater scrutiny, while dozens of journalists with state media have been forced to return home and visa restrictions have been placed on those remaining.

The restrictions would be the latest punitive measure taken by the US against China amid sharpening disputes over a host of issues. On Wednesday, the US said it would block imports from a major Chinese producer of cotton goods that it says uses the “forced labor.”

The US Customs and Border Protection agency said on Wednesday its “Withhold Release Order” would ban cotton and cotton products from the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. The ban against XPCC, which produced 30 percent of China’s cotton in 2015 could have a sweeping effect on companies globally involved in selling textiles and apparel to the United States.

Hua responded by saying that US politicians “concoct false news about forced labor so as to suppress Chinese firms and China.”

“All workers in Xinjiang choose their occupations based on their own volition and sign labor contracts with firms based on the principle of equality and free will,” she said, adding that the ban contravenes international trade rules and would hurt consumers everywhere.

XPCC controls about a third of cotton production in the Uighur region and about 6 percent of all cotton globally, according to the Worker Rights Consortium, a nongovernmental organization.

On another front, the US House of Representatives passed “The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act,” which bars securities of foreign companies from being listed on any US exchange if they have failed to comply with the US Public Accounting Oversight Board’s audits for three years in a row.

While it applies to companies from any country, the legislation’s sponsors intended it to target Chinese companies listed in the United States, such as Alibaba, tech firm Pinduoduo Inc and oil giant PetroChina Co Ltd.

The measure passed the House by unanimous voice vote, after passing the Senate unanimously in May, sending it to President Donald Trump, who the White House said is expected to sign it into law.

Hua said the law would harm global investors’ confidence in the US market, and China will take necessary countermeasures to protect its benefits.

She said China hopes the US can provide a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign firms to invest and operate in the US, instead of setting up layers of barriers.

According to figures from a congressional commission, 217 Chinese companies were listed on US stock exchanges in October.

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