U.S. House passes Hong Kong human rights bill, sends it to Trump

22, Nov. 2019

(Clashes between protesters and police near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon district on Nov. 18, 2019.)
(Clashes between protesters and police near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Kowloon district on Nov. 18, 2019.)

WASHINGTON, Kyodo - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a Hong Kong human rights bill on Wednesday to show support for the pro-democracy protest movement in the China-ruled territory.

The bill directs the State Department to conduct an annual review as to whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from China in light of U.S. law. Its passage through the Senate a day before by unanimous consent sparked criticism from Beijing as interfering in its internal affairs.

If President Donald Trump signs the bill into law, it is likely to complicate ongoing trade talks between the two economic giants, which appear to have hit a snag over differences on the removal of existing punitive tariffs imposed on each other's goods.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a key sponsor of the bill, said on Twitter that passage of the bill made clear that members of Congress stand with Hong Kong as anti-government demonstrations continue.

hina has defended the action taken by Hong Kong police to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations. During recent clashes at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, police were seen using tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators who fought back with fire bombs and other means.

The protests sparked by a now-withdrawn bill that sought to allow extraditions to mainland China have been ongoing since June, presenting the Hong Kong government with its biggest challenge yet since the former British colony's return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Under the framework of “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong was promised it would enjoy the rights and freedoms of a semiautonomous region.

U.S. relations with Hong Kong are governed by a 1992 law that gives the territory a special status separate from the rest of mainland China in political, economic, trade and other areas, given its important role in the regional and global economy. The law gives special treatment over tariffs and visa issuance.

The Hong Kong human rights bill also imposes sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

The House of Representatives on the same day also passed a bill that prohibits exporting tear gas, rubber bullets and certain other munitions to Hong Kong police. The bill has already passed the Senate.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement Thursday that it “strongly opposes” passage of the bill, which “not only interferes in Hong Kong's internal affairs, but also sends a wrong message to violent protesters.”

“A foreign government and legislature should not interfere in any form with the internal affairs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” a government spokesman said. (Kyodo)