China bristling after US passes Hong Kong human rights bill
Tuesday’s U.S. Senate easily approved a bill to support human rights in Hong Kong after months of often-violent unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.
Hong Kong’s Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by referendum. It now goes to the House, after passing similar legislation.
China responded by threatening to take “strong countermeasures” if Congress passed the bill.
The measure mandates sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials performing human rights abuses and requires an annual review of Washington’s favourable trade status.
“This bill is an important step in keeping those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for eroding Hong Kong’s independence and human rights violations accountable,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of nearly 50 co-sponsors of the law.
In June, mass protests in Hong Kong began over a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to China for trial. Activists saw the legislation as part of an ongoing erosion of rights and freedoms that Hong Kong was promised to keep when Britain returned to China in 1997.
China opposed any criticism of handling Hong Kong protests as unjustified interference in its domestic affairs.
In a statement Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the bill’s aim was to “strengthen anti-China, separatist and violent radicals trying to disrupt (and) destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability” as part of a plot to suppress China’s growth.
The Hong Kong government issued a statement voicing its own frustration with such U.S. government decisions, saying they are “unnecessary and unwarranted” and will “harm the relationships and common interests between Hong Kong and the U.S.”