Sep 23, 2019

Senate's Hong Kong human rights bill edges closer to passage

Protesters occupy the arrival hall of the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will debate and vote on a bipartisan bill on Wednesday aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong, with measures that include giving the U.S. more authority to defend the region's autonomy and sanction individuals who attempt to undermine it.

Why it matters: The bill has emerged as the leading mechanism proposed by Congress for the U.S. to deter Beijing from escalating its aggression in Hong Kong.

Details: The measure gives the Trump administration and future governments new tools to crack down on China's efforts to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy.

  • The bill requires the president to identify individuals responsible for human rights abuses, freeze their U.S.-based assets and deny them entry to the U.S.
  • It also mandates that the State Department issue an annual assessment on whether Hong Kong remains autonomous from Beijing in an effort to pressure China into maintaining the territory's special economic status.

Worth noting: If the State Department were to determine that Hong Kong lost its autonomy as a result of Beijing's aggression, it could lead the U.S. government to downgrade its special status and treat it the same way it treats mainland China.

  • "Everything we do with Hong Kong is based off the fact that they are autonomous," Sen. Marco Rubio, who is a lead sponsor of the bill, told Axios. "What would be the rationale for treating the products, commerce, etc., ... differently if in fact they’re one and the same?"

The state of play: The bill's sponsors think it's a "common sense" bill that should pass easily. It has broad bipartisan support in both chambers, including from congressional leadership, and has even been endorsed by some of Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists.

  • Rubio, who has discussed the bill with the president, says there has "been zero hesitancy" from the White House on this and that the State Department has been working closely with Congress in helping craft the bill's language.
  • Leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee say it is also planning to mark up the House's version of the bill this week.

Go deeper

China warns U.S. it will retaliate if Hong Kong bill becomes law

Protesters rally in Hong Kong on Monday. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Chinese government issued a statement on Tuesday threatening the U.S. with retaliatory action if Congress passes legislation that would lead to a mandatory annual review of Hong Kong's special trading status.

Why it matters: The House unanimously passed a bill earlier Tuesday condemning Chinese interference in Hong Kong's affairs and supporting the rights of pro-democracy protestors to demonstrate.

  • The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement warns if the bill is passed into law, it would harm relations between the 2 countries and China would take retaliatory measures.

Go deeper: Top 2020 Democrats punt on China’s Hong Kong crackdown threat

Keep ReadingArrowOct 16, 2019

Hong Kong police fire tear gas on protesters ahead of China anniversary

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

Hong Kong police fired tear gas, water cannon and blue-dyed liquid on protesters taking part in a massive, unsanctioned march against totalitarianism during a violent weekend of clashes with authorities, Bloomberg reports.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 29, 2019

On China anniversary, violence erupts between Hong Kong police and protesters

Hong Kong police fire water cannons and blue dye from the central government complex toward protesters. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Violent clashes erupted across Hong Kong between police and protesters as tens of thousands defied a marching ban on Tuesday, China's 70th anniversary of Communist Party rule, the New York Times reports.

What's happening: A police officer shot a pro-democracy protester in the first incident of its nature since the protests started months ago, reports AP, which called the event an "escalation of the monthslong unrest that has rocked the city."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 1, 2019