The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening. If signed into law, the legislation would empower the Trump administration to sanction Chinese officials who violate human rights.
The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, which approved a similar version last month, and then on to President Trump’s desk for consideration.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a co-sponsor of the bill and outspoken critic of China, said the bill is a message that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong, and that, “The Chinese Communist Party’s quest for power across the region is a direct threat to America’s security and prosperity.”
Protestors began flooding the streets of Hong Kong in June when a controversial extradition bill, which would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China, was introduced in the Hong Kong legislature. The bill has since been scrapped, but the protests have spiraled into an ongoing, wider pro-democracy movement.
“The people of Hong Kong see what’s coming – they see the steady effort to erode the autonomy and their freedoms,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on the Senate floor.
Under the Senate bill, the U.S. secretary of State is required to certify, at least once a year, that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy of its government’s decisions to qualify for trade special considerations.
Officials in both Beijing and Hong Kong angrily condemned the the passage of the bill. A statement from Hong Kong said they expressed “deep regret” about the legislation, and commented that “foreign legislatures shouldn’t interfere with its internal affairs.”
Both protestor demonstrations and police response to demonstrations escalated this weekend as fires broke out on a university campus. Police in riot gear threatened the use of lethal force against protestors who have begun stockpiling weapons including Molotov cocktails. On Monday, a video surfaced and sparked fear online, appearing to show Hong Kong protesters being loaded onto a train near the Chinese border.
Handcuffed #HongKong PolyU student protestors have been loaded onto a train, apparently headed for China. HK citizens are trying to obstruct the track with debris to prevent the train from reaching its destination. https://t.co/VXawejlwkv
— jeremiah jacques (@js_jacques) November 18, 2019