The House of Representatives has passed a bill paving the way for sanctions against individuals who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, prompting an angry response from China.
Related: interview with Joshua Wong
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will now move to the Senate before it can become law, approved unanimously Tuesday by the House, requires the U.S. government to consider annually whether it should continue to treat Hong Kong as a separate trading entity from mainland China in response to political developments in the city.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang in a statement said: “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,”.
The United States should “stop meddling” and warned China would take “strong measures” to counter the proposed Hong Kong bill.
Geng Shuang said the bill demonstrated a “naked double standard, which fully exposes the extreme hypocrisy of some people in the U.S. on the issues of human rights and democracy and their sinister intentions to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and contain China’s development.”
State news agency Xinhua branded the House’s move “arrogant and dangerous.”
The move was welcomed by pro-democracy figures inside Hong Kong. Activist Joshua Wong thanked the House for its support.
Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, said on Twitter: “On one side, you have a repressive regime crushing democratic freedoms in #HongKong. On the other, you have young people speaking out for freedom & democratic reforms. Proud to stand with @RepMcGovern in support of today’s bipartisan votes showing the House’s commitment to HK.”
Concerns about dysfunction in Hong Kong are growing. The disruption of the speech, which leader Carrie Lam was forced to deliver via video Wednesday amid a heavy police presence aimed at deterring protests, underscored how little room officials have to maneuver as pressure mounts for a resolution to the crisis.
According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy until 2047, but Beijing has been tightening its grip.
The intensifying crackdown on protesters led U.S. lawmakers to support the bill.
The United States is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner, with an estimated two-way trade of $69 billion in 2017. It is also the second-largest destination for Hong Kong exports, which amounted to $42 billion.