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US Senate passes bill to sanction China over Hong Kong takeover

Hong Kong protests (Tango Chan/WikiCommons)
June 26, 2020

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill on Thursday to enact sanctions against China following China’s plan to take over the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.

The bill, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, passed by a vote of unanimous consent on Thursday. The sanctions bill would target individuals and entities that contribute to introducing and enforcing crackdown measures on Hong Kong favored by mainland China, according to a congressional summary.

On May 28, China voted to proceed with drafting what its lawmakers have been referring to as “national security legislation,” but which Hong Kong activists and U.S. lawmakers believe would amount to the suspension of key autonomous features for the city. The specifics of China’s national security measures are still being considered by China’s National People’s Congress, but similar security legislation imposed over the semi-autonomous Macau has included broadly defined measures allowing China to crack down on “sedition” and “subversion” in the city.

The bill opposing China’s takeover of Hong Kong was sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).

Toomey explained the intent of the legislation in a Thursday press statement. The sanctions prescribed in the legislation would target “persons or entities that materially contribute” to passing and enforcing the “national security” laws over Hong Kong. Those people or entities involved in the legislative takeover of Hong Kong could include key Chinese officials and lawmakers who proposed or helped pass the control laws, as well as police units used to enforce its measures.

Toomey said banks and financial institutions that conduct “significant transactions” those Chinese individuals and entities could also face sanctions.

“Today, the Senate stood up to the communist regime in Beijing and stood with the people of Hong Kong,” Toomey said. “The mandatory sanctions established in this bill will punish those in China who seek to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or erode the basic freedoms promised to Hongkongers. I very much appreciate the great work done by Senator Van Hollen in helping to get this bill passed and I hope the House will take it up and pass it in short order, so the president can sign it.”

With the Senate vote complete, the measure will go to the U.S. House of Representatives and, if it passes, to President Donald Trump’s desk for signature.

“Today, the Senate took meaningful action to hold China and its proxies to account for their ongoing efforts to extinguish liberty and democracy in Hong Kong,” Van Hollen said in his own press statement following the Senate vote. “This legislation sends a strong, bipartisan message that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong. We urge the Government of China to abandon their ongoing efforts to repress freedoms in Hong Kong. There will be a price to pay if they continue down that path. I appreciate Senator Toomey’s partnership on this crucial legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the House to take it up without delay.”