China has suspended all activities with mainland tourists, as Beijing prepares to reopen the country to tourists in the first half of February.
The move was announced on Sunday, but the announcement came just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen in Hong Kong holding talks with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the decision was made because tourists were not welcome in the country.
“We have taken measures to maintain the safety and security of tourists,” Hong said, adding the decision would be reviewed in the future.
He also warned that “any form of discrimination will be strongly punished.”
China has been dealing with a surge in migrant workers from Vietnam, where the trade in the metal used to make high-end handbags is valued at $2.3 trillion a year.
The crackdown comes just weeks after Hong Kong became the first major Asian city to allow foreign workers into the city in December.
The city’s new mayor, Andy Leung, said that the city had received nearly 600,000 foreign workers during the last two months, mostly from Vietnam.
He said that there had been a “significant rise” in foreign workers since the new year, with a total of more than 100,000 arriving in HongKong during the first two months of February alone.
The Chinese government said that “foreigners who do not comply with the new regulations and regulations related to social responsibility” would face “serious consequences,” adding that “a number of these offenders will be removed.”
“We are taking steps to prevent illegal immigration and illegal migrant workers,” Leung said.
“We are also taking measures to prevent migrant workers entering the country illegally.”
The crackdown is the latest in a series of moves by the Chinese government to clamp down on foreign labor.
In February, Beijing announced a “zero-tolerance policy” for “foreign exploitation of Chinese labor,” which included a ban on the import of all goods made in China that did not comply.
The new measures were meant to address the issue, but they also prompted concerns among U.S. officials that China is taking steps that could affect the future of U.K.-based steelmaker Alcoa.
In a recent speech, the U.N. special envoy on the elimination of trafficking in persons said that China’s crackdown on migrant labor was “a big step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go.”
China says it is a major beneficiary of the migrant workers’ labor, allowing it to produce goods for foreign buyers at far lower cost than its domestic market.