On Tuesday, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill sought by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong that intends to defend civil rights in the semi-autonomous territory, prompting an angry response from China.
Before becoming a law, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act will move to the Senate and has drawn rare bipartisan support in a polarized Congress. The law will end the special trading status of the Hong-Kong unless the State Department certifies annually that city authorities are respecting human rights and the rule of law.
Regarding the passing of the act, China has expressed “strong indignation” which also requires the US president to identify the sanction people who are responsible for the erosion of autonomy and serious abuses of human rights in Hong Kong.
Geng Shuang, the foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement, “What Hong Kong faces is not the so-called human rights and democracy issue at all, but the issue of stopping violence, reinstating order and upholding the rule of law as soon as possible.”
Geng further claimed China will take “strong measures” to counter the proposed Hong Kong bill and warned that the US should “stop meddling”. The act will now move to a similar vote in the Senate before it can become law.
On Tuesday, the main sponsor of the bill and the Republican Representative Chris Smith said on the House floor, “Today we’re simply urging the Chinese president and the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, to faithfully honor the government’s promises” that Hong Kong’s rights and autonomy would be protected.
China has repeatedly accused “external forces” of fuelling weeks of unrest in the global financial hub. Millions of protesters came down to the streets in Hong Kong to protest against a now-dropped bid by its leaders to allow extraditions to the authoritarian Chinese mainland.
The movement expanded into a broader pro-democracy push in the territory where activists say freedoms are being eroded by Beijing. Ben Ray Lujan, a House Democrat asserted, “The House just sent a strong message to the people of Hong Kong: We stand with you in the fight for democracy and justice.”
According to Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican House member, the Act ensures “that the special relationship with Hong Kong endures only as long as Hong Kong retains the autonomy and freedoms that justify that special relationship.”
A related bill to prevent the export of certain non-lethal crowd control items such as tear gas to Hong Kong has also been approved by the House. The officers of the city were accused by Amnesty International of using the excessive force a claim that was denied by the police saying they have exercised restraint.