US House passes Hong Kong rights bills, Trump expected to sign – Al Jazeera English

US House passes Hong Kong rights bills, Trump expected to sign – Al Jazeera English

The United States House of Representatives on Wednesday passed two bills intended to support protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights.

The bills now go to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign or veto amid delicate trade talks with Beijing.

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The House voted 417 to one for the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, which had passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday. Strong support for the measure had been expected, as House members passed a similar bill last month.

The legislation, which has angered Beijing, would require the State Department to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for the special US trading consideration that helped it become a world financial centre

It also would provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

Demonstrators in Hong Kong have been protesting since June amid rising concern that Beijing will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience. The demonstrators are angry at what they see as Chinese meddling in the freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the UK returned the territory to Chinese rule in 1997.

Protesters react as police fire tear gas in the Kowloon area of Hong Kong [Vincent Yu/AP Photo] 

Republican Senator Marco Rubio was a main sponsor of the Senate-passed bill, which was co-sponsored by Republican Senator Jim Risch and Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin.

The House passed by 417 to 0 a second bill, which the Senate also approved unanimously on Tuesday, to ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong police forces. That measure bans the export of items such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.

President Trump has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign a bill passed by Congress, unless he opts to use his veto.

A person familiar with the matter said the president intended to sign the bills into law, not veto them.

Vetoes would have been difficult to sustain, since the measures passed both the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House with almost no objections.

A two-thirds majority would be required in both the Senate and House to override a veto.

‘Vigorous measures to firmly respond’

In Beijing on Wednesday, China condemned the legislation’s passage and promised strong countermeasures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.

China’s foreign ministry said this month that China had lodged “stern representations” with the US about the legislation and urged that it not be passed into law, saying it would not only harm Chinese interests and China-US relations, but the US’s own interests, too.

A view from Yau Ma Tei area in Kowloon district as anti-government protests continue in Hong Kong [Miguel Candela Poblacion/Anadolu]

It said China would “inevitably take vigorous measures to firmly respond, to staunchly safeguard our sovereignty, security and development interests”.

Trump prompted questions about his commitment to protecting freedoms in Hong Kong when he referred in August to its mass street protests as “riots” that were a matter for China to deal with.

Trump has since called on China to handle the issue humanely, while warning that if anything bad happened in Hong Kong, it could be bad for talks to end a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

SOURCE: Reuters news agency


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