Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong speaks at the U.S. Capitol, along with Representatives
Eliot Engel (Dem.) and Michael McCaul (Rep.), in September 2019.
By Mary Foran
The US Senate passed a bill recently that compels the government to support Hong-Kong pro-democracy activists by requiring the government to impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in the territory, according to an article in the New York Times.
“The bill, if enacted into law by President Trump, would also require the State Department to annually review the special autonomous status it grants Hong Kong in trade considerations. That status is separate from the relationship with mainland China, and a revocation of the status would mean less favorable trade conditions between the United States and Hong Kong.”*
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote and thus could be enacted into law even if President Trump vetoes it.
Hong Kong demonstrators have been vocal for about six months now, as activists have been trying to “preserve the territory’s semi-autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. That semi-autonomy was guaranteed for 50 years under an agreement between London and Beijing that was made before the British handed over the territory in 1997.”
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said in a statement that “today, the United States Senate sent a clear message to Hong Kongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: We hear you, we continue to stand with you, and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy.”
Protesters and police have been in confrontation all over Hong Kong, with the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University becoming one of the focal points of the fighting.
“The bill is the latest sign of a strong bipartisan push in Washington to confront China and its authoritarian leader, President Xi Jinping, on a wide range of issues, including commercial practices and the dentention of at least a million Muslim ethnic minority members in camps in northwest China.”
Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have made US politicians sit up and take notice, and fashion the bill in the midst of the current impeachment inquiry hearings in Washington.
Although far away, the cry for freedom and democracy can still be heard and addressed in some way.
Statement by US President Donald Trump, 27 November 2019
*Today, I have signed into law S. 1838, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019” (the “Act”). The Act reaffirms and amends the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, specifies United States policy towards Hong Kong, and directs assessment of the political developments in Hong Kong. Certain provisions of the Act would interfere with the exercise of the President’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States. My Administration will treat each of the provisions of the Act consistently with the President’s constitutional authorities with respect to foreign relations.
The “Act” was enacted by the 116th United States Congress and became effective on November 27, 2019.
Featured image/House Foreign Affairs Committee, PD
Trump/Voice of America, PD
HK Polytechnic University/Ken Ohyama, CC BY-SA2.0