China rushes through law to counter US and EU sanctions

China has passed a law to counter foreign sanctions in response to US and EU pressure over trade, technology, Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Individuals or entities involved in making or implementing discriminatory measures against Chinese citizens or entities could be put on an anti-sanctions list and may be denied entry into China or be expelled from the country. Their assets within China may be seized or frozen and they could be restricted from doing business there.

China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee, passed the law on Thursday, according to state television CCTV.

All 14 vice-chairpersons of the committee are under US sanctions for passing the Hong Kong national security law last year that critics say has crippled political freedoms.

The US and its allies have increasingly sanctioned Chinese officials over China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and pro-democracy activities in Hong Kong, triggering counter-sanctions by China. Washington has also targeted Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE for violating US sanctions on Iran or North Korea.

The bill underwent a secret first reading in April and was passed on Thursday, barely two days after the NPC announced that it was doing a second reading of the bill. It skipped a third reading normally needed for other bills.

The European Union Chamber of Commerce said its members were alarmed at the lack of transparency about the passing of the bill.

“China seems to be in a hurry. Such action is not conducive to attracting foreign investment or reassuring companies that increasingly feel that they will be used as sacrificial pawns in a game of political chess,” Joerg Wuttke, the chamber’s president, said.

Foreign companies looking to do business in China may find themselves up against increasing scrutiny from Chinese regulatory authorities in relation to their operations both locally and abroad, said Shaun Wu, a partner at law firm Paul Hastings.

Chinese experts said Beijing was simply taking a page from the playbooks of the US and EU.

“China previously had neither the economic power nor the political will to use legal means to retaliate against US sanctions. It now has both,” said Wang Jiangyu, a law professor at City University of Hong Kong.

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