Asia Minute: U.S. Congress Agrees On Hong Kong Bills

Nov 21, 2019

While news from Washington has been dominated in recent days by the impeachment hearings, there is other activity as well — and some of it is even bi-partisan. That includes a pair of bills passed this week concerning Hong Kong.

Congress has managed to agree on at least two items this week in a bi-partisan fashion: both concerning human rights in Hong Kong.

Under the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” the Secretary of State would have to certify every year that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special trade status. The measure would also sanction officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

A second bill would bar the export of certain items to Hong Kong police — such as tear gas and rubber bullets.

The House overwhelmingly passed both bills Wednesday with Republican Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky’s 4th district casting the only dissenting vote on the human rights act.

Both measures passed the senate unanimously on Tuesday.

China’s Foreign Ministry immediately condemned the moves and threatened “strong countermeasures.” A spokesman said the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs” — adding it “is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.”

President Trump still needs to sign the measures for them to take effect as the U.S. and China continue discussions on the first phase of a potential trade deal.