The US Senate on Thursday (local time) passed a bill by unanimous consent that would impose sanctions on China for its decision to implement the controversial national security law on Hong Kong, which critics say will erode the city’s democratic freedoms.
One of the bills, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, would slap sanctions on individuals and businesses that help China restrict the autonomy of Hong Kong. The bill was authored by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, CNN reported.
“What the government of China is doing in Hong Kong is unacceptable. They are taking away the rights of people in Hong Kong. They are snuffing out freedoms that exist there right now,” Van Hollen was quoted as saying.
A second measure from Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri is a resolution condemning China for violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 to guarantee autonomy for Hong Kong.
The new security law being adopted by China would “deal a mighty blow to the freedoms and liberties that Hong Kongers have enjoyed for decades now. It is a permanent break from the one country, two systems principle that has governed that city since 1997,” said Hawley.
The measures, which were combined into one bill before getting the Senate’s nod, still needs to be passed in the House of Representatives before President Donald Trump gives his assent.
Last month, Trump had said that his administration will revise the State Department’s travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect “increased danger of punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus”.
Massive demonstrations in Hong Kong have prevented China from implementing the security law, but Beijing has made it clear that the legislation would be enacted “without delay”. Under the law, a police unit will be established to oversee the implementation of the legislation, along with secret policing in the former British colony.
The security law has been criticised by the international community despite both China and Hong Kong’s leadership asserting that they have the full right to implement the legislation.