hile it may seem like Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on anything, the two sides have managed to find common ground in the issue of Hong Kong.
In a unanimous vote, the US Senate passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Tuesday. The bill would cause the US Secretary of State to have to certify at least once a year whether Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to qualify for special US trading considerations.
Hong Kong is treated as fully autonomous for trade and economic matters, meaning that the former British colony is exempt from Trump’s tariffs against China. The status helps to bolster the city as one of the world’s top financial hubs.
The bill would also provide sanctions against government officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. In addition, the Senate passed another bill that would ban the export of certain munitions like tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun guns to Hong Kong police forces.
“We have sent a message to President Xi: Your suppression of freedom, whether in Hong Kong, in northwest China or in anywhere else, will not stand,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer following the passage of the bill.
“You cannot be a great leader — and you cannot be a great country — when you oppose freedom, when you are so brutal to the people of Hong Kong, young and old, who are protesting.”
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of China’s top critics among American politicans, declared that the US hears and stands with Hong Kong, accusing Beijing of “violence and repression.”
“Today, the United States Senate sent a clear message to Hong Kongers 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." — Sen. Marco Rubio
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) November 19, 2019
Florida Senator Rick Scott added on similar sentiments.
BREAKING: tonight the Senate unanimously passed the #HongKong Human Rights & Democracy Act. This is a great step forward for those fighting for their freedom.
Thank you for what you’re doing. The US stands with you. Your fight will not be in vain, and won’t go unnoticed. pic.twitter.com/VSN0FSs4DR
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) November 19, 2019
The Senate’s bill will now go back to the House of Representatives, which had earlier approved its own version of the measure. The two chambers will work out a final version of the proposed legislation which will then be sent to the desk of President Donald Trump.
Of course, that’s when things get really interesting. It’s likely that he if signs the deal, China will opt to walk away from any trade deal which the Trump administration has been attempting to broker for more than a year.
Unlike Congress members from both parties, Trump has remained mostly silent on Hong Kong. During a call with Xi back in June, he reportedly pledged to stay silent on the issue while trade negotiations between the two countries progressed.
He has referred to the protests as “riots” and declared that he hopes the situation will “work out for everybody, including China.” As a way of bringing the demonstrations to an end, he even suggested that Xi meet personally with the protesters.