Nov 28, 2019

China summons U.S. ambassador to protest Trump signing Hong Kong bill

A protester holds a U.S. flag during a rally in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

China summoned the U.S. ambassador on Thursday to "strongly protest" President Trump's signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in support of protesters, state media report.

Why it matters: Trump signed the bipartisan congressional bill condemning Chinese interference in Hong Kong's affairs and supporting the rights of pro-democracy protesters as Washington and Beijing hold crucial trade talks.

  • China's action came soon after the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned it would take "firm counter measures" if the U.S. continued to "interfere" in Hong Kong, per the New York Times.

What they're saying: A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said the country's Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told Ambassador Terry Branstad the U.S. bill marked a "serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious violation of international law," AP reports.

  • "We are officially telling the U.S. and the handful of opposition politicians in Hong Kong who follow America’s lead to not underestimate our determination to protect Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, don’t underestimate our belief to protect the 'one country, two systems policy,'" the foreign ministry said in an earlier statement, translated by CNBC.
  • "And don’t underestimate our capabilities and strategies in protecting our country’s sovereignty, safety, growth and rights."

Go deeper: Pro-democracy parties triumph in key Hong Kong elections

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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Trump signs bill expressing support for Hong Kong protesters

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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.

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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.

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Finger-pointing over misjudging Hong Kong

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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.

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