US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed two bills supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and imposing sanctions on officials who violate freedom and human rights in the city.
The signing comes a week after Congress passed the legislation with a veto-proof majority.
China denounced it as a “blatant hegemonic move”.
By approving the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, Trump is supporting violent criminals staging street protests in Hong Kong and undermining the ‘one country, two systems’ principle governing the financial hub, Beijing said.
Summoning US ambassador to China Terry Branstad, the ministry of foreign affairs said
Beijing is considering countermeasures.
Although angry, China may not react in a way to upset the ongoing trade talks. It is in no hurry for an immediate breakthrough in talks. Trump, on the other hand, wants it as a trump card to boost his campaigns ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.
Moreover, China thinks the Act will harm Hong Kong more. One bill requires the US State Department to periodically check Hong Kong’s autonomy is not compromised and allows it to impose sanctions on the financial hub if there is any violation.
Besides backing pro-democracy protesters and imposing sanctions on officials who suppress their rights, the bills ban the export of crowd-control weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to Hong Kong’s law enforcement.
Trump said he signed the Act out of respect for President Xi Jinping, China, and the people of Hong Kong and hoped it would help leaders of China and Hong Kong to amicably settle their differences.
Last week, he claimed that but for him, Hong Kong would have been “obliterated in 14 minutes”.
In a television interview, he said he told Xi not to send soldiers into Hong Kong as it would affect the ongoing trade negotiations with the US.
Senators, cutting across party lines, welcomed the signing of the bills.
They said the bills clearly showed America’s support to the people of Hong Kong. The bills will deter China from meddling in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is guaranteed a certain amount of autonomy until 2047.
Hong Kong has been hit by waves of pro-democracy protests for months over a controversial bill that would have extradited suspected criminals to China to face trial.
While the government defended the proposed bill saying it only applied to financial fraudsters, people of Hong feared politicians, lawyers, rights activists and writers too would be targeted.
The bill was abandoned by Hong Kong’s top leader Carrie Lam after weeks of protests.
However, protests continued as people wanted the ouster of Lam, an inquiry into police brutality, release of those who have been arrested and greater democratic freedoms.