Beijing accused the United States of being “blinded” to the wellbeing of Hongkongers after Congress unanimously passed a bill supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed the Senate floor on Nov. 19, after the House passed its version of the bill last month. The bill requires the Secretary of State to assess annually whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify its special trading status with the United States.
In Hong Kong, protesters have been seen raising U.S. flags during marches and rallies, urging Congress to pass the bill.
“This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs,” stated China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a Nov. 20 press release.
Geng called on Washington to “immediately take measures to prevent this act from becoming law.” And if the United States does not stop “interfering” in Hong Kong, Geng warned that “negative consequences will boomerang on itself” and China would have to take “strong countermeasures to defend our national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”
Now, lawmakers from both the Senate and House must iron out differences in their bills before it can be sent to President Donald Trump to sign into law.
Also on Nov. 20, China’s deputy foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu summoned William Klein, the U.S. embassy’s minister counselor for political affairs, to voice “strong opposition” to bill, according to a press release.
Yang Guang, spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office—Beijing’s highest office for managing the affairs of the two former European colonies—accused U.S. lawmakers of “openly supporting rioters” in Hong Kong who had an “ugly intention to hold back China’s development,” according to another press release.
The Hong Kong government also responded to the bill, saying it expressed “deep regrets” and that the bill was “unnecessary and unwarranted.” It added that “foreign legislatures should not interfere” in the city’s internal affairs, according to a statement.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. James Risch (Idaho) from the Senate Committee on Foreign Reactions said in a statement: “Passing this legislation is an important step forward in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its repression of fundamental freedoms.”
Stating that the Senate had taken a “momentous step” in standing up for democracy and human rights around the world, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) called on Hong Kong authorities to “address the democratic desire of the Hong Kong people—including forming an independent commission to investigate police violence.”
Samuel Chu, managing director of Washington-based nonprofit Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), thanked the original sponsors of the bill—Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Mary.), Risch, and Menendez, as well as Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—for “standing boldly to answer the call for help from Hongkongers, according to a press release.
Chu added that both the Senate and House versions of the bill “contain the necessary tools and ingredients for a more robust U.S. defense of Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights.”
Chu suggested that the Hong Kong bill be attached to the Armed Services Committees’ annual defense spending bills under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as one of the quickest ways to get the bill to Trump’s desk.
Both the Senate and House have already approved their versions of the spending bill, and the differences between the two are being ironed out at the NDAA conference committee.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy party Demosistō thanked everyone in Hong Kong and Washington for their hard work in passing the Senate bill in a tweet.
Joshua Wong, activist and the iconic figure from the 2014 Umbrella Movement, urged Trump to sign the bill to support Hong Kong’s democratization.
“Human right should never be override [sic] by the trade deal,” Wong tweeted.