In a show of solidarity with Hong Kong protesters, the US Senate passed a legislation unanimously that would force the Trump administration to assess whether political unrest in the vital global financial hub justify changing its unique treatment under the US law.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 that was passed on Tuesday would also require the Secretary of State to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong still retains enough autonomy to warrant the special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center.
The US treats Hong Kong differently from the Chinese mainland when it comes to trade and export control. The bill when once becomes a law it would demand greater scrutiny of the city’s special status.
The legislation would also impose sanctions on any officials who commit human rights violations in Hong Kong.
“The passage of this bill is an important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy and human rights violations,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
Millions of Hong Kongers are protesting since June. What initially started opposing the extradition bill that would have allowed residents to be sent to mainland China for trial, a measure that was later withdrawn, has grown to include calls for a broader change in governance and democracy.
The demonstrations that were largely peaceful turned violent in recent months, after police resorted to using tear gas and even opening fire at times with live rounds.