WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday the United States will impose visa restrictions on Chinese technology firms, the latest move expected to strain relations between Washington and Beijing.
"State Department will impose visa restrictions on certain employees of Chinese tech companies like Huawei, that provide material support to regimes engaging in human rights violations and abuses globally," Pompeo said.
The secretary of State described Huawei as "an arm of the Chinese Communist Party's surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China."
He accused certain employees of the company of providing "material support to the Chinese Communist Party regime that commits human rights abuses," but he didn't offer specifics on the employees.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment regarding Pompeo's announcement.
In a statement to CNBC, Huawei said it was "disappointed by this unfair and arbitrary action." The company also said it "operates independent of the Chinese government" and is a "private, employee-owned firm."
Pompeo, who has previously described Huawei and other Chinese state-backed businesses as "Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence," said that Wednesday's actions should serve as a warning for other tech companies.
"Telecommunications companies around the world should consider themselves on notice: If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers," the nation's top diplomat said.
Earlier this month, Pompeo said the U.S. was looking at banning TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing national security concerns.
U.S. officials have long complained that Chinese intellectual property theft has cost the economy billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs. They have also said that it threatens national security. Beijing maintains that it does not engage in intellectual property theft.
Pompeo's remarks come on the heels of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to purge Huawei equipment from the nation's 5G network by the end of 2027. The Trump administration welcomed the reversal, which was announced Tuesday and further limits Huawei's global footprint.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed legislation to impose sanctions on China in response to its interference with Hong Kong's autonomy. He also signed an executive order ending the preferential treatment that Hong Kong has long enjoyed.
China's foreign ministry said Wednesday that Beijing will impose retaliatory sanctions against U.S. individuals and entities in response to the law targeting banks, though the statement released through state media did not refer to the executive order.
— CNBC's Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.