The US House of Representatives on Tuesday passed four pieces of legislation taking a hard line on China, three related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and one commending Canada in its dispute over the extradition of a Chinese executive.
All four measures passed by unanimous voice vote, as members of the US Congress — both 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 territory.
The measures come as the White House engages in delicate talks with Beijing to resolve a crippling trade dispute, with US Treasury yields edging lower as investors pared back expectations that an agreement was at hand.
One of the measures, the proposed Hong Kong human rights and democracy act, would require the US secretary of state to certify every year that Hong Kong retained its autonomy to keep it receiving the special treatment that has allowed it to be a major financial center.
A second, the proposed Protect Hong Kong act, would bar commercial exports of military and crowd-control items that Hong Kong police could use against demonstrators.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused US 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 (耿爽) said in a statement.
The House action “fully exposes the shocking hypocrisy of some in the US on human rights and democracy, and their malicious intention to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability to contain China’s development,” Geng said.
The Senate has not yet scheduled votes, which, if passed, would send the measures to the White House for US President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto.
However, a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee aide said votes on Hong Kong-related measures were expected in the chamber in the coming weeks.
US Representative Chris Smith, a Republican and a sponsor of the main bill, predicted that the Senate would pass the legislation and dismissed the threats from Beijing.
“Retaliation, that’s all they ever talk,” Smith told Bloomberg TV. “They try to browbeat and cower people, countries, presidents, prime ministers and the like all over in order to get them to back off. We believe that human rights are so elemental, and so in need of protection, and that’s why the students and the young people are out in the streets in Hong Kong virtually every day.”
The third measure passed by the House was a non-binding resolution recognizing Hong Kong’s relationship with the US, condemning Beijing’s “interference” in its affairs and supporting the right of the territory’s citizens to protest.
The Hong Kong government expressed regret over the passage of the legislation and said that foreign legislatures should not interfere in the territory’s internal affairs.
The fourth measure was another non-binding House resolution commending Canada for its actions related to a US request to extradite Huawei Technologies Co (華為) chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), who was arrested in Vancouver in December last year.
Meng is charged in the US with bank fraud and is accused of misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei’s business in Iran, which is under US sanctions.
Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition.
The US has accused Huawei of stealing US intellectual property and contravening sanctions on Iran.
Many Republican and Democratic members of the US Congress say they view the company as a security threat.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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