The US House of Representatives passed legislation in support of human rights in Hong Kong on Tuesday, moving the bill one step closer to becoming law. The bipartisan legislation, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, would require that the US government assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify Washington changing its treatment of the city as a separate trading entity from the Chinese mainland.
Lawmakers also approved a bill that blocks the export of crowd control equipment, such as tear gas, to Hong Kong authorities.
Returning after a two-week break, the lower chamber of Congress approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, a bill that Beijing considers an attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs and contain the country’s rise.
“In a crucial period in which China and the US are meeting each other halfway [on trade], some American politicians are effectively putting the car in reverse by pushing this bill and flagrantly meddling in China’s internal affairs,” it said.
The commentary also accused Republican senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, both of whom are backing the bill, of “selective blindness” after they criticised authorities’ handling of protests during visits to the city over the weekend.
A senior US defence official for Asia said on Tuesday that violent actions by some protesters were a cause for worry.
“Certainly we have some concern about some of the tactics that the protesters have been using and may use, and I think in single instances where that becomes a real problem we would point that out,” Randall Schriver, assistant secretary of defence for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said at a conference in Washington.
Yet the US remained “100 per cent” behind protesters calling for fundamental rights, Schriver said, expressing concern that Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities had taken a heavier hand in dealing with the unrest.
Recognising that some protests had turned violent, Cruz urged demonstrators “to resist the urge to respond to brutality in like kind, but instead stand with dignity”.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act includes a stipulation that the US should not deny entry to anyone on the basis of their arrest or detention resulting from their participation in “nonviolent protest”.