The U.S. Senate approved on Tuesday a bill that would give a boost to Hong Kong activists, who have been at war for five months against the government and for democracy, and establish sanctions against the authorities responsible for human rights abuses. As a measure of pressure, the legislation also provides for a periodic review of the special trade status granted by Washington to this autonomous territory, which is independent of the Cinese framework. The State Department will have to ratify each year if, indeed, Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify such a special agreement.
The House of Representatives had already approved a very similar version of this bill last month, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, so it is foreseeable that both chambers will harmonise the texts without many problems and submit the joint bill to the US president for signature. Donald Trump has kept a low profile about this bill, which represents a new front with the Xi Jinping regime at a time of complex trade negotiations.
Republicans and democrats, irreconcilable in the bulk of US domestic politics, have agreed on this front. On Tuesday they also approved a measure that would ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment to the Hong Kong security forces. Support for the bill is so broad that it could overcome a Trump veto. “Today, the U.S. Senate sent a clear message to Hong Kongers fighting for their cherished freedoms: we listen to them, we continue to support them, and we will not stand idly by while Beijing undermines their autonomy,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
So far, China has already protested. The U.S. goal is “to support the extremists and anti-Chinese elements who are trying to wreak havoc in Hong Kong (…) to achieve their sinister purpose of hindering China’s development by taking advantage of the Hong Kong problem,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.