US Senate passes bill protecting rights of Hong Kong protesters


The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”  a legislation aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong amid a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement has been passed in the US Senate, as dozens of protester spent a fourth day stranded in a university campus.

The legislation will now go to the House of Representatives, which approved its own version last month. The two chambers will have to work out their differences before any legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump for his consideration.

“The people of Hong Kong see what’s coming – they see the steady effort to erode the autonomy and their freedoms,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said at the start of the brief Senate debate, accusing Beijing of being behind the “violence and repression” in the Asian financial hub.

The Senate passed a second bill, also unanimously, that would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong police forces. It bans the export of items such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.

Under the first Senate bill, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo would have to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial centre. It also would provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

There was no immediate response from the White House, which has yet to say whether Trump would approve the legislation.

The passing of the bill drew fire from China. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said it “seriously violated international law and basic norms governing international relations. China condemns and firmly opposes it.”

He slammed the bill as “whitewashing the illegal and criminal acts of Hong Kong violent elements for ulterior political purposes”, and “the pursuit of ‘human rights’ and ‘democracy’, is to boost the support of the extremists and violent elements against China and Hong Kong”.

Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said: “The biggest risk Hong Kong faces now is violence, not ‘human rights’ or ‘democracy’.” He accused US politicians of applying a “double standard” and “mixing right and wrong, black and white”. (Source: The Guardian)