(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House gave support to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by passing a bill that would require an annual review of whether the city is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify its special trading status under U.S. law.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is one of four measures passed by the House Tuesday in unanimous voice votes. The bill provides for sanctions against officials “responsible for undermining fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong.”
A similar bill is also before the Senate, though the timing of a vote there remains uncertain. The legislation has bipartisan support in both chambers.
Thousands of protesters gathered on Monday in Hong Kong’s central district to support the legislation, many of them waving American flags. A spokesman for the Hong Kong government “expressed regret“ over the rally calling for the U.S. legislation’s passage.
“Human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong are fully protected by the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other legislation. The HKSAR government attaches great importance to them and is determined to safeguard them,” the spokesman said, referring to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The Chinese government opposes the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, H.R. 3289, saying that it “grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs.”
“China strongly urges certain people in the U.S. Congress to grasp the situation, immediately stop advancing the bill regarding Hong Kong and interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs to avoid further damaging China-U.S. relations,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The House passed H.Res. 543, a resolution reaffirming the relationship between the U.S. and Hong Kong, condemning Chinese interference in the region and voicing support for protesters, some of whom have visited Capitol Hill in recent weeks.
Also passed was the Protect Hong Kong Act, H.R. 4270, which would halt the export to Hong Kong of crowd-control devices such as tear gas and rubber bullets. The bill is intended to prevent police in Hong Kong from using those non-lethal weapons on protesters.
In addition, the House adopted a resolution introduced by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and top Republican Michael McCaul, which commends the Canadian government for starting extradition proceedings in the U.S. case against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The resolution, H.Res. 521, also calls for the release of two Canadian nationals and due process for a third sentenced to death for drug smuggling.
Republican Senators Rick Scott, Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley visited Hong Kong over the two-week congressional recess that ended Tuesday. Hawley met with local pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and got into a back-and-forth with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Hawley said on Twitter that he called Hong Kong a “police state” on purpose “because that is exactly what Hong Kong is becoming.”
(Updates with other two measures passed starting in second paragraph.)
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Flatley in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org, Laurie Asséo, Anna Edgerton
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.