The Chinese and Hong Kong governments responded negatively to news that the Senate unanimously approved a human-rights bill that sanctions government officials who have facilitated crackdowns on pro-democracy protests.
In a statement on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the purpose of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was to “bolster anti-China, extremist and violent radicals who attempt to disrupt Hong Kong [and] damage Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.” The Hong Kong government released a similar statement saying the bill was “unnecessary and unwarranted” and will “harm the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the U.S.”
The passage of ‘#HongKong Human Rights and Democracy Act’ is very disappointing. The democracy and human rights held so dearly by the American people are once again abused by some American politicians to justify violence and disorder. Do they want to side with the rioters? SAD! https://t.co/WF5ryMBqCO
— Chinese Embassy in US (@ChineseEmbinUS) November 20, 2019
In Congress, the mood was markedly different. Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) who sponsored the bill, said its passing “is an important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy and human rights violations.”
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.), who has been an outspoken critic of Chinese totalitarianism in Hong Kong, said the bill “sends a clear message that the United States will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong as they battle Beijing’s imperialism. The Chinese Communist Party’s quest for power across the region is a direct threat to America’s security and prosperity.”
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed both chambers of Congress with a veto-proof majority, putting pressure on President Trump to take a public stance against Chinese tactics in Hong Kong amid ongoing negotiations for a U.S.-China trade deal.
“We have sent a message to President Xi: Your suppression of freedom, whether in Hong Kong, in northwest China or anywhere else, will not stand,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said on Tuesday night. “You cannot be a great leader and you cannot be a great country when you oppose freedom, when you are so brutal to the people of Hong Kong, young and old, who are protesting.”
This week, student protestors in Hong Kong were trapped at Hong Kong Polytechnic University by police, who demanded surrender. Hong Kong’s high court also ruled that a recently implemented ban on face masks was unconstitutional, striking a blow against security forces attempting to use facial-recognition software to arrest demonstrators.