The United States Senate has unanimously passed legislation which aims to protect protesters in Hong Kong, triggering condemnation from China.
The Senate passed the bill known as the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” after a voice vote on Tuesday. The legislation will be sent to the House of Representatives, which itself approved its own version in October.
The two chambers now need to settle their differences before any bill can go to President Donald Trump for his consideration.
This has come as China has recently said it would not budge on opposing interference of “any” type in the internal affairs of Hong Kong by “some Western countries.”
Under the bill, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would need to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong maintains enough independence to be able to qualify for special US trading consideration which can improve its status as a world financial center.
Beijing condemned the new legislation, pledging strong counter-measures to protect its sovereignty and security.
“This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.
“It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. China condemns and firmly opposes it.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also said William Klein, the US embassy’s minister counselor for political affairs, was summoned over the bill.
Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu summoned Klein, telling him that the situation in Hong Kong was part of China’s internal affairs, demanding that Washington stop its meddling.
Hong Kong has been engulfed by mass protests since June. The public display of anger was initially set up over a controversial extradition bill.
The proposal was eventually shelved, but the protests have continued and taken on an increasingly violent form, with masked individuals vandalizing public and private property and attacking security forces and government buildings.
The anti-government demonstrators now want complete separation from mainland China.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed a second bill aiming to ban the export of certain munitions to Hong Kong police forces which they can use to control crowds such as tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and stun guns.
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