President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill supporting Hong Kong protesters' pro-democracy fight against China, potentially putting him at odds with Beijing as his administration attempts to negotiate a trade deal.
The president put his signature on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act after the House overwhelmingly and Senate unanimously passed it last week.
"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi [Jinping], China and the people of Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement. "They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all."
Introduced in the Senate shortly after mass protests erupted in the semiautonomous region in June, the bill requires the State Department to annually assess whether Hong Kong's level of autonomy from China justifies its special trade status under U.S. law.
The bill also mandates the president to impose sanctions against those responsible for committing human rights abuses, such as extrajudicial rendition, arbitrary detention, torture and forced confessions, against Hong Kong citizens.
It also states that visas will not be denied to Hong Kong citizens for having been arrested or detained for participating in the ongoing pro-democracy protests.
Both chambers also passed legislation preventing the sale of certain ammunition to police in Hong Kong.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a rare agreement with the president, said she was "pleased" Trump signed the bill.
"Now, with this law, the Congress has sent an unmistakable message to the world: that the United States stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong, and that we fully support their fight for their freedoms," she said in a statement, adding, "America is proud to stand with the people of Hong Kong on the side of freedom and justice."
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Gene Shuang condemned the Senate's passage of the bills.
"I'd like to stress once again that Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are China's internal affairs," he said. "We urge the United States to grasp the situation, stop is wrongdoing before it's too late."
The bills come as protests in Hong Kong stretch into their sixth month. What began as unrest against an extradition bill that would allow some suspects to be sent to mainland China to face Communist Party-controlled courts has evolved into a general pro-democracy push following accusations of police brutality.
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