Home / World / The house passes Hong Kong rights bill amid Trump China's trade talks

The house passes Hong Kong rights bill amid Trump China's trade talks



Pro-democracy supporters hold their phone's flashlight in a rally to show support for students at Hong Kong Poytechnic University on November 19, 2019 in Hong Kong, China.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

The House approved a pro-legislation on Hong Kong's rights on Wednesday, putting President Donald Trump in a bind when he tries not to stir up high stakes with China.

The House approved a measure aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong by a margin of 41

7-1 in the midst of efforts to break down months of protests against the government. The House passed a second bill to prevent the export of certain ammunition to the Hong Kong police by the same margin.

The Senate unanimously approved both legislation, so they go to Trump's desk after Parliament's passage. The White House has not yet signaled where the president stands on the bills, but he may face a dilemma.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing "strongly condemns and opposes" the first bill, known as Hong Kong's human rights and democracy law, according to Reuters. Trump does not aim to anger the Chinese regime as he pressures on the elusive first part of a US-China trade agreement.

Congress's transition to bills comes during a difficult time for Trump, who hopes to promote a China victory in the 2020 campaign year. Large US stock indices fell on Wednesday following a Reuters report that the world's two largest economies may not complete a "phase" a "trade agreement" this year.

Trump is likely to sign the legislation, says a source familiar with the matter. The president did not answer calls from reporters on Wednesday if he would sign the bills. The measures passed with almost unanimous support in both chambers, which means that Congress is likely to override a Trump veto.

The government's response to months of protests against the government in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region, has become increasingly violent. The demonstrations were first initiated in response to a then scrapped bill that would have allowed extradition to the mainland of China.

Some members of the Trump administration, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have harshly criticized China's response to the protests. Trump has said that China should deal with the situation itself, although he has warned harsh treatment of people in Hong Kong could spur trade negotiations.

A bill passed this week would require Pompeo once a year to certify that Hong Kong has enough autonomy to keep particular U.S. trade predominantly helping its economy. It would also create opportunities for sanctions against people responsible for human rights in Hong Kong.

The second measure would prevent the sale of items such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the Hong Kong police.

In a statement following the vote in the House, Foreign Affairs Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, called it "an important step forward in holding the Communist Party accountable." Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who pushed for the bipartisan measure to pass, said he urged Trump to "sign this critical bill into law as soon as possible."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said in a statement that Congress showed that the United States "stands with the Democratic protesters in Hong Kong and that the suppression of freedom will not persist."

Asked about the trade deal earlier Wednesday, Trump said Beijing wants to strike a trade deal more than he does. He added that he has not made a deal because "I don't think they go up to the level I want."

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