Nov 19, 2019

Senate unanimously passes bill reaffirming support for Hong Kong autonomy

Thousands of people hold an unsanctioned march through the streets of Hong Kong. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/Getty Images

The Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Tuesday to reaffirm American support for the city's autonomy.

The big picture: The bill asserts the U.S.' commitment to "democracy, human rights, and the rule of law" as it relates to Hong Kong's autonomy, according to bill sponsor Sen. Marco Rubio's description. The legislation comes amid months of violent clashes between police and protestors in Hong Kong.

Between the lines: The passage sends a clear message to China, with whom the U.S. has been caught up in a trade war since 2017. Tuesday's bill would require annual reviews of Hong Kong's special status under U.S. law, during which officials would assess how much China has breached the city's governance.

  • "The United States has treated commerce and trade with Hong Kong differently than it has commercial and trade activity with the mainland of China," Rubio said on the Senate floor.
  • "But what’s happened over the last few years is the steady effort on the part of Chinese authorities to erode that autonomy and those freedoms," he added.

What to watch: The bill may now head to the House for consideration. However, the House has passed its own version of the measure that they could try to reconcile with the Senate. Only slight differences exist between the two.

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House passes bill expressing support for Hong Kong protestors, rebuking China

Pro-democracy protesters gather for a rally in Victoria Park, Hong Kong. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Images.

The House voted 417-1 on Wednesday evening in favor of the Senate's unanimously-passed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, sending the bill to President Trump's desk. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was the sole "no" vote.

The big picture: The bill reaffirms the U.S.' commitment to supporting democracy and human rights in Hong Kong as it relates to city's autonomy. The legislation comes amid months of violent clashes between police and protestors in Hong Kong, and could set up a confrontation between the U.S. and China in the midst of Trump's high-stakes trade war. The White House has not yet commented on whether Trump intends to sign the bill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 20, 2019

Trump signs bill expressing support for Hong Kong protesters

Photo: Xinhua/Li Xueren and Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Wednesday, reaffirming U.S. support for the city's autonomy after months of pro-democracy protests.

Why it matters: The bill, which was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, serves as a major rebuke of China at a time when Washington and Beijing are engaged in critical trade talks. China has warned that it will take retaliatory measures if the bill becomes law.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 27, 2019

Finger-pointing over misjudging Hong Kong

Anti-government protesters shine phone lights at police as they chant slogans in Hong Kong yesterday. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Top Chinese leaders, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, "have been managing their response" to the violent protests in Hong Kong from a villa in Shenzhen instead of using the formal bureaucratic system that's been in place for two decades, Reuters scoops.

Why it matters: Under normal circumstances, Beijing and Hong Kong communicate through the Liaison Office, "housed in a Hong Kong skyscraper stacked with surveillance cameras, ringed by steel barricades," Reuters writes. This change shows the central government isn't happy with how the Liaison Office has been handling the protests.

Go deeperArrowNov 26, 2019