Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation passed by Congress to support the protests in Hong Kong, despite threats from China.
Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation passed by Congress to support the protests in Hong Kong, despite threats from China.

China’s threat of ‘consequences’ for US

Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation passed by Congress to support the protests in Hong Kong, despite threats from China warning him against it.

The bill, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, could pave the way for economic sanctions against Hong Kong's embattled government.

It requires the US president to annually review the favourable trade status that Washington grants to Hong Kong, and threatens to revoke the coveted status that the semi-autonomous Chinese territory enjoys with the United States if its freedoms are quashed.

The bill was introduced by Senator Marco Rubio and approved by the Senate on Tuesday. Mr Rubio said the bill was integral to "holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong's eroding autonomy and human rights violations".

"The United States Senate sent a clear message to Hongkongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: we hear you, we continue to stand with you, and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy," he said.

In a responding statement, the Chinese foreign ministry said: "China will take strong opposing measures, and the US has to bear all the consequences."

The bill's passing in the Senate came after the House passed its own version last month, prompting an outcry from Beijing.

"We urge the US to immediately take measures to prevent the case from becoming a law, immediately stop interfering with Hong Kong affairs and stop interfering in China's internal affairs," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Wednesday.

 

Protests in Hong Kong are now in their fifth consecutive month.
Protests in Hong Kong are now in their fifth consecutive month.

But the White House has not threatened to veto the measure and Trump is expected to sign it, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy hailed the vote as a warning to Beijing. "China is taking aggressive action to impose total control through surveillance, political pressure and, as we saw this weekend, brute force," Mr McCarthy said.

He said Congress voted "to protect American interests and hold China accountable for its misconduct".

The votes marked an unusually strong show of bipartisanship in divided Washington.

"For 24 consecutive weeks, the people of Hong Kong have been asking for their democracy, freedoms and promised autonomy to be respected," Senate Democrat Ben Cardin said in a statement.

"Congress has heard their pleas and now we have additional tools to back up our long-time commitment to Hong Kong with action."

 

Police have detained protesters and students after they tried to flee outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus.
Police have detained protesters and students after they tried to flee outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus.

It comes as concerns about overt Chinese political influence in Hong Kong have heightened in recent months, with the semi-autonomous territory rocked by increasingly violent protests.

The protests, now in their fifth month, descended into some of the worst violence seen this week as police trapped anti-government protesters inside Hong Kong Polytechnical University for days.

Hundreds of protesters have attempted to escape by running away in groups, only to be beaten back by teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

Others have attempted to abseil out, crawl out through sewage drains and by tunnelling under barriers.

Dozens have been arrested and now face charges that could land them in prison for up to a decade.

WHY IS HONG KONG PROTESTING?

The demonstrations in Hong Kong started on June 9 as a protest against a proposed extradition bill that would send criminal suspects China.

They have since become more widely about opposition to the mainland's growing political influence overall.

When Hong Kong was handed over from Britain to China in 1997, it was agreed the territory would be allowed to maintain its unique freedoms and civil liberties for the next 50 years - a deal the protesters believe has not been honoured by Beijing.

The protesters believe China has gradually been whittling away their liberties since the handover, including by suppressing the "Umbrella Movement" in 2014 and by kidnapping the five Hong Kong booksellers.

With the ongoing protests, they are now pushing for the right to directly elect their own government, for an independent commission to investigate police brutality, and they want the territory's leader, Carrie Lam - who was hand-picked by the Chinese Government - to resign.

The protests have also more broadly become a statement against increasing instances of police brutality in Hong Kong and Chinese political influence.

- with AFP


FAST TRACK: MP wants planned Bruce upgrades sped up

premium_icon FAST TRACK: MP wants planned Bruce upgrades sped up

The MP wants to see planned overtaking lanes fast-tracked

Spoiled wedding plans the catalyst for music festival

premium_icon Spoiled wedding plans the catalyst for music festival

Event set to celebrate its 24th year at Cameron's Pocket.

Superyacht legislation a real 'game-changer' for region

premium_icon Superyacht legislation a real 'game-changer' for region

Marina owner speaks out after import duties cut for foreign vessels.