Senators from both parties will introduce legislation to sanction Chinese officials and entities over a suite of new national-security laws that threaten Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China.
Senators Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), who co-sponsored the legislation, told the Wall Street Journal they had been drafting a more general bill aimed at defending the autonomy of Hong Kong, but that the imposition of new laws from China’s government made the issue more pressing. China intends to use the new legislation to suppress Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, which have been mostly subsided since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We would impose penalties on individuals who are complicit in China’s illegal crackdown in Hong Kong,” Van Hollen told the Journal. Banks that do business with Chinese entities involved in the crackdown would also be penalized.
Hong Kong was a British protectorate for most of the 20th century. It was incorporated into China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, which allowed for a measure of autonomy and significantly more freedoms for the city’s residents. In 2019, China attempted to enshrine a law that would allow for extradition of suspected criminals to the Chinese mainland — a provision that many Hong Kong residents believed infringed upon the city’s autonomy.
Pro-democracy protests, many of which turned violent, brought the city to a standstill for much of the year, and in November a pro-democracy majority defeated supporters of Beijing in the Hong Kong parliamentary elections for the first time.
China’s new national-security laws are “a complete and total surprise and I think it means the end of one country, two systems,” pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok told the Washington Post on Thursday. “This is the most devastating thing to happen to Hong Kong since the handover.”