Policemen from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit search for dangerous materials at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong. Picture: Ng Han Guan/AP
Policemen from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit search for dangerous materials at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong. Picture: Ng Han Guan/AP

Beijing fumes as Trump signs bills backing Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters

By dpa correspondents Time of article published Nov 28, 2019

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Washington/Beijing - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed two bills supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, drawing Beijing's ire.

"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi [Jinping], China, and the people of Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement.

"They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday called the move a "serious" interference with China's internal affairs and a "blatant hegemonic act."

China accused the US of supporting violent criminals in Hong Kong and undermining the "one country, two systems" principle in place for China's governing of the financial hub.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, is guaranteed certain freedoms until 2047.

"We advise the United States not to act arbitrarily, or China will resolutely counteract it, and all consequences arising therefrom must be borne by the United States," the ministry said.

The US Congress last week passed the legislation with a veto-proof majority.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act requires sanctions against Chinese officials who are deemed to be violating freedoms and committing serious human rights abuses in the city.

It also requires a review of Hong Kong's autonomy from China, to determine whether the city should benefit from a special trading status with the US.

There are also provisions in the two bills that bar the export of non-lethal crowd-control weapons, like tear gas, to Hong Kong's law enforcement.

After the vote in Congress, China had called on Trump to veto the bills, and the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned US Ambassador Terry Branstad.

"Without question, the American people support the people of Hong Kong, and this law makes that abundantly clear to Hong Kongers, the international community, and the Chinese Communist Party," said Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the foreign affairs committee.

Fellow Republican senator Marco Rubio also praised Trump for signing the document.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong stands outside the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong. Picture: Kin Cheung/AP

"The U.S. now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong's internal affairs," he wrote in a statement.

Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that signing the legislation into law "sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Hong Kong: We are with you."

Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on Thursday called Trump's signing of the bill "a remarkable achievement."

Wong said on Twitter he and his pro-democracy organization Demosisto would continue to encourage similar legislative efforts and a sanctions mechanism.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the signing showed the US' support for Hong Kong's democracy.

"We call on both Beijing and the Hong Kong government to address people's concerns, bringing stability back to Hong Kong as soon as possible," Ou said.

China and the US are locked in a trade war, with no clear indication there will be a significant breakthrough in the near future. The Hong Kong bills could rankle China at this crucial juncture.

Hong Kong has for months been rocked by massive democracy protests, sparked by a now-defunct bill that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.

On Wednesday, the High Court in Hong Kong extended until next month the interim suspension of a ruling that deemed a ban on face masks unconstitutional.

The government had hoped the controversial ban would discourage demonstrators, but it actually caused more people to take to the streets in protest.


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