The State Department has restricted visas for members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their immediate family to protect the U.S. from the CCP’s “malign influence,” prompting a rebuke from Beijing.
The policy reduces the maximum validity of visitor visas for CCP members and members of their immediate family from 10 years to one month, a spokesperson for the State Department said in a statement.
The State Department argued that it has the authority to limit visa validity of groups of individuals hostile to U.S. values under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
American flags are displayed together with Chinese flags on top of a trishaw in Beijing.
“Through various entities, the CCP and its members actively work in the U.S. to influence Americans through propaganda, economic coercion, and other nefarious activities,” the State Department said. “The CCP also sends agents to the United States to unabashedly monitor, threaten, and report on Chinese nationals and Chinese-American groups engaging in legal, honest, and open activities that are protected under freedom of speech and freedom of assembly clauses.”
The spokesperson said that the U.S. has for decades allowed the CCP “free and unfettered access to U.S. institutions and businesses while these same privileges were never extended freely to U.S. citizens in China.”
“Interaction with free societies, economies, and access to Western technologies certainly helped China develop, while the CCP only doubled down on Marxist-Leninism and hostility to the free world,” the State Department said.
It wasn’t clear how the restrictions would be enforced since many of the party’s 92 million members do not play active public roles in its institutions.
The restrictions are the latest punitive measure taken against China’s leadership and economy amid sharpening disputes over human rights, the coronavirus pandemic, trade, technology, Taiwan and a host of other issues.
China on Thursday hit back, calling the move “an escalation of political suppression.”
Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said China would “make representations” to the U.S. over its decision to limit such people to one-month, single-entry visas. Hua called Washington’s approach “totally inconsistent with the U.S.’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 U.S. out of strong ideological prejudice and deep-rooted Cold War mentality against China,” Hua said at a daily briefing.
Washington has already slapped travel bans and financial sanctions on officials connected to the crackdown on Uighurs and other Chinese Muslim groups in Xinjiang, as well as on Chinese and Hong Kong officials it accuses of restricting social and political rights in the semi-autonomous Chinese city through the implementation of a harsh new national security law.
Diplomatic ties hit a low point over the summer when the U.S. ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston and China responded by demanding the U.S. vacate its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.