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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation to back protesters in Hong Kong and send a warning to China about human rights, sending two bills to the White House where President Donald Trump is expected to sign them into law.
Mass protests for more democracy and autonomy have roiled Hong Kong for more than five months, with escalating violence and fears that China will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience.
The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, which the Senate passed unanimously on Tuesday, would put the former British colonys special treatment by the United States under tighter scrutiny linked to Hong Kongs autonomy from Beijing.
A second bill, which the Senate also approved unanimously on Tuesday, would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong authorities.
The two bills have been sent to the White House, where U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign them into law.
Once that happens, the State Department would be required to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for the special U.S. trading consideration that helped it become a world financial center.
Officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong could also be sanctioned under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
While many see the act as symbolic, it could alter the nature of relations between the United States and Hong Kong.
Beijing promised Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years when it regained sovereignty over the city in 1997, but protesters say freedoms have been steadily eroded.
U.S. policy toward Hong Kong has been underpinned by a 1992 law called the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act, which affords the territory special status as separate from China in trade, transport and other areas.
Under the 1992 law, the president can issue an executive order suspending elements of Hong Kongs special status if the president determines that the territory is “not sufficiently autonomous” from Beijing.
The Human Rights and Democracy Act would amend that law, putting Hong Kongs autonomous status under closer scrutiny.
The other bill would ban the export to Hong Kong of items such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.
The passage of the two bills by the Senate and House has angered Beijing, which denounced the legislation as gross interference and violation of international law. If they become law, tension between Read More – Source