The Senate passed a bill on Thursday that places sanctions on individuals, entities, and banks that help facilitate greater Chinese control over Hong Kong.
Senator Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), a co-sponsor of the legislation, blocked the bill’s passage last week at the request of the White House. The bill was amended with minor “technical” changes desired by the Trump administration, a Senate aide told Politico.
“They were able to reach some accommodation with the Treasury, and so the White House apparently didn’t object,” Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) said. It is not yet clear whether the Trump administration will implement the sanctions approved in the bill.
The passage comes after President Trump told Axios that he refrained from imposing sanctions on China over the country’s treatment of its minority Uighur population in order to complete a U.S.-China trade deal.
“I made a great deal, $250 billion potentially worth of purchases,” Trump said. “And when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot. I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of.”
China approved a new “national security” law in late May that applies to Hong Kong. Similar laws in place in mainland China can serve as pretext to jail dissidents.
The new law’s passage prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to inform Congress that the territory of Hong Kong could no longer be considered independent of China. Hong Kong had retained a degree of autonomy and relative democratic governance since 1997, when Britain relinquished control over the territory.