bill of support for the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has now been passed by both houses of the US Congress and will move on to the desk of President Donald Trump.
If signed into law, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 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 by the US, 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.
After the House of Representatives voted in favor of the act, the Senate unanimously approved its own version of the act on Tuesday. That bill was then passed by the House with a 417 to 1 vote on Wednesday.
The lone “nay” vote came from Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie who told reporters that he agreed with 90 percent of the bill but had “never voted for sanctions against a sovereign country.”
Following the vote, a number of US lawmakers took to Twitter to celebrate including Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey who encouraged the people of Hong Kong with a “jia you!” Supporters thanked Smith for his work and gently taught him that he should instead be telling them “ga yau!”
The #HongKongHumanRightsDemocracyAct, legislation I have championed for 5+ yrs, has cleared both chambers of Congress. #HongKong’s freedom and autonomy is critical. We stand in solidarity with the people of #HongKong. Your cause is noble. Jiā yóu! https://t.co/8I1NueLykW
— Rep. Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith) November 20, 2019
The act puts Trump in a bit of a tough position. If he signs the bill, China will certainly be furious and may opt to walk away from the trade deal that his administration has been attempting to broker for more than a year. While if he refuses he will be seen as meekly kowtowing to Beijing at the expense of principles like human rights and democracy.
Ultimately, it’s far more likely that Trump will sign the bill. After all, with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress could easily override Trump’s veto and get the act passed into law anyway.