The Chinese government has announced counter-sanctions against several Americans, including current and former officials, marking the first time that Beijing has used its newly passed legislation on such action.

Former US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross was among those blacklisted by the Chinese government on Friday, as Beijing hit back at Washington over US sanctions imposed on Chinese officials relating to the alleged crackdown in Hong Kong.

In addition to Ross, Beijing imposed sanctions on a number of current and former US officials. Many are, or have been, the heads of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The sanctions are the first imposed under China’s anti-foreign-sanction law, passed in June. The law reportedly allows Beijing to hit back after foreign states impose punitive measures on Chinese citizens and companies. 

The move comes just days before US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to visit China as part of her official trip to Asia, which also includes stops in Japan and South Korea. 

Last week Washington imposed sanctions on seven Chinese officials supposedly culpable for undermining democracy in Hong Kong. All of the individuals sanctioned were deputy directors at the liaison office, according to online bios.

The two countries have traded numerous diplomatic blows in recent years, with the US frequently resorting to targeted sanctions. China has vowed to protect its citizens and companies from American interference.

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