China announced Friday it was imposing sanctions on several U.S. citizens in response to the U.S. sanctioning of seven deputy directors and the director of Beijing's Hong Kong liaison office.
The highest profile of those sanctioned is former U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross.
In addition, China said it would target U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Chairman Carolyn Bartholomew, former Congressional-Executive Commission on China staff director Jonathan Stivers, DoYun Kim from the National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute associate director Adam King, Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson and the Hong Kong Democracy Council.
"The relevant actions of the U.S. seriously violated international law and the basic norms of international relations and seriously interfered in China's internal affairs. China firmly opposes this and strongly condemns it," a statement from Beijing said.
"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. Any attempt by external forces to interfere in Hong Kong affairs is a mere stumbling block," the statement added.
"I have to say it's noise. It's a distraction. We have work to do and these sanctions are not in any way going to distract us from continuing to do our work," said Richardson. "And I only wish that the Chinese government would focus its energy on ending crimes against humanity against Uighurs among other serious human rights crimes."
"To be totally honest, I'm much more concerned about the status of human rights defenders across China. That's what matters."
In addition to sanctioning Chinese officials, the U.S. recently issued a warning to U.S. companies about the risk of operating in Hong Kong.
The sanctions are the first by China under an anti-foreign sanction law passed in June and come just days before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman travels to China.
Some information in this report comes from Reuters.