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.”
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