Pompeo slaps visa restrictions on Chinese accused of quashing dissent

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo puts on this mask after speaking to the media with Kuwait's Foreign Minister in Washington, D.C., U.S., November 24, 2020. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday he had imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials and others who have used or threatened to use violence, the release of private information or other coercive tactics to intimidate critics.

Pompeo did not name those sanctioned in a written statement in which he accused the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) United Front Work Department of coercing and bullying "those who would oppose Beijing’s policies."

"The United Front frequently intimidates members of academia, businesses, civil society groups, and Chinese diaspora communities, including members of ethnic and religious minority communities who speak out against horrific human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang, Tibet, and elsewhere in China," he said, saying that its coercive tactics include the release of personal details of their targets, a practice known as "doxing."

Pompeo said the visa restrictions would apply to those "who have engaged in the use or threat of physical violence, theft and release of private information, espionage, sabotage, or malicious interference in domestic political affairs, academic freedom, personal privacy, or business activity."

He accused China of seeking to "co-opt and coerce" people in the United States and elsewhere to support its "authoritarian narratives and policy preferences" and called on Beijing "to end its use of coercion and intimidation tactics to suppress freedom of expression."

(Reporting By Susan Heavey and Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chris Reese and Chizu Nomiyama)

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