On Wednesday, the U.S. House passed a pro-Hong Kong human rights bill in the midst of President Donald Trump’s heated trade discussions with China.
This bill was approved by a vote count of 417-1 and aims to protect human rights in Hong Kong as Beijing has been exerting itself on the island during the last few months.
The Senate approve both legislative items unanimously and are now headed to Trump’s desk after their passage in the House. The White House has yet to indicate the president’s stance on the bills, but there could be problems along the way.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declared that the Chinese government Beijing “condemns and firmly opposes” the first bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, according to a Reuters report.
At the moment, Trump is walking a tight rope as he is busy negotiating the first piece of a U.S.-China trade agreement. Trump would like to have a China trade victory to use during the 2020 campaign trail.
According to a source familiar with the matter, Trump is expected to sign the bills. With near unanimous support in both chambers of Congress, both bodies could override a potential Trump veto.
China’s response to ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong has gradually escalated. The first set of demonstrations started when the Hong Kong government proposed a bill that would have allowed for extraditions to mainland China. Due to protester pressure, this bill was scrapped. However, protests continue to rage on.
Members of the Trump administration such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been firm critics of China’s response to the protests. Trump said China could keep the situation under control, but he has cautioned the Chinese to not crack down too hard lest they want trade talks to fizzle out.
One of the bills passed would make Pompeo certify once a year that Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous to maintain its special trade status with the U.S. Additionally, it would sanction the people for human rights abuses in Hong Kong.
The second measure would prohibit the sales of equipment such as tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong police.
After the House vote, Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Risch stated that the bill is “an important step forward in holding the Communist Party accountable.”
Trump believes that Beijing wants to come to an agreement more than he does. He asserted that he has not made a deal because “I don’t think they’re stepping up to the level that I want.”
Democrats Introduce Expanded Background Check Legislation
Democrats are going to implement a background check which targets “extremism.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy and California Congressman Mike Thompson brought forward legislation on March 2, 2021 that aims to broaden the federal background check system on firearms sales, according to a report by The Hill.
Under The Background Check Expansion Act, gun sales and purchases between all unlicensed sellers and buyers would be subject to a mandatory background check. The background checks would not be applicable for law enforcement officers, lending out firearms for the purpose of hunting, temporary transfers for self-defense, or family members gifting a firearm.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 43 Senate Democrats have co-sponsored this bill. Thompson, who is the chair of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, reintroduced this legislation in the U.S. House
“For years, the bipartisan House-passed background checks bill languished in the Senate under Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Now, with Senate Democrats in the Majority, we have the opportunity to act on this overwhelmingly popular, lifesaving legislation to protect American communities,” Schumer declared in a press release.
According to a CBS News report, President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass stiffer gun control laws. This gun control bill will not pass so easily given how it will need 10 Republican senators to vote in favor of it.
Against the backdrop of the January 6 storming of the Capitol, such a background check will likely feature provisions that target so-called “extremists.” The ruling class has routinely lumped average gun owners with domestic extremists and will most certainly use recent events to justify encroachments on people’s right to bear arms.
Biden is a veteran of the gun control movement, as evidenced by his sponsorship of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban. With Democrats in control of all branches of the federal government, they will certainly move to pass gun control. However, their success is not guaranteed due to moderate Democrats like Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Joe Manchin not being completely receptive to radical gun control that could alienate them from their more right-wing constituents.
Nevertheless, the Left has shown that it’s willing to act regardless of the political context. Keeping this in mind, gun owners must be ready to beat back any kind of gun control coming from D.C. Such fights will allow the Right to rebuild its forces and make a splash in the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential race.
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