U.S. House Passes Hong Kong Act as Carrie Lam Warns Against Calls for Independence

Protests in Hong Kong continue in their fourth month, with more than 200 arrested over the weekend as violence continued to flare.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Act and two other acts that support in Hong Kong, in a rare show of bipartisan support. On Monday night, protesters in Hong Kong had gathered to call on the U.S. government to support their efforts to protect the territory’s democratic rights, as The Washington Post’s Shibani Mahtani reports:

The demonstration, the first approved by authorities since the imposition of an anti-mask ban at all public gatherings, was marked by the sense of anguish that has gripped the movement after months of protesting. Instead of offering any further concessions, the government has instead expanded police powers and imposed more restrictions.

As the crackdown on protests intensifies — with the arrest of more than 2,500, including 201 arrested in smaller-scale protests over the weekend — some see foreign pressure as the best hope for securing a democratic future for Hong Kong.

“Our citizens do not have any kind of power to fight against the government,” said Crystal Yeung, 23, standing among thousands of protesters spilling out onto roads from a small square that couldn’t contain the rally. “We are relying on the U.S. to punish those who are trying to breach the Hong Kong law.” [Source]

Haley Byrd of CNN reports on the passage of the bill:

“Democrats and Republicans in the House and in the Senate stand united with the people of Hong Kong,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anyplace in the world.”

“Today the House is proud to pass the bicameral, bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to reaffirm America’s commitment to democracy,” said the California Democrat.

The bill would mandate an annual review to determine whether Hong Kong’s autonomy from the mainland Chinese government remains sufficient to justify the special treatment the financial hub receives under US law.

[…] House members on Tuesday afternoon also passed by voice vote two other Hong Kong-related measures: a resolution supportive of the protesters and the PROTECT Hong Kong Act. The latter would halt US exports of nonlethal crowd control equipment, such as rubber bullets and tear gas, to the Hong Kong police until an independent investigation into human rights concerns is completed, those concerns are adequately addressed by the Hong Kong government and the White House determines that Hong Kong law enforcement has not engaged in human rights violations for a year. [Source]

Patricia Zengerle from Reuters has more:

All four measures passed by unanimous voice vote, as members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – said they wanted to take an aggressive stance on China and show support for Hong Kong following four months of unrest in the city.

The measures come as the White House engages in delicate talks with Beijing to resolve a crippling trade war, with U.S. Treasury yields edging lower on Tuesday as investors pared back expectations that an agreement was at hand.

[…] China’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. lawmakers of “sinister intentions” to undermine Hong Kong’s stability and warned that bilateral relations would be damaged should the measures become law.

“China must take effective measures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, security, and development interests,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement. [Source]

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attempted to deliver a policy address Wednesday in front of the Legislative Council but was forced to leave and have her speech televised after protesters repeatedly interrupted her. In the address, Lam spoke out against any efforts to seek independence for Hong Kong–despite the fact that independence is not one of the protesters’ five demands.

While traveling in Nepal, Xi Jinping also spoke out against efforts to infringe on Chinese sovereignty or “split” the country, using more graphic language. From Al Jazeera:

“Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones,” he said during a visit to Nepal on Sunday, according to China’s state broadcaster CGTN.

“Any external forces backing such attempts dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming,” he was quoted as saying, without mentioning a specific adversary.

The Chinese leader did not mention any region by name, but riot police and pro-democracy protesters clashed again in Hong Kong over the weekend. [Source]

The term he used, 粉身碎骨, translated as “crushed bodies and shattered bones,” is from the classic “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.”

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