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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

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

13 hours ago - Economy & Business

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 14 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.