The US Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a bill to impose sanctions on businesses and individuals — including the police — that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or restrict freedoms promised to Hong Kongers.
The bill targets Hong Kong police units that have cracked down on protesters, as well as Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing strict national security legislation on the territory.
The measure would also impose sanctions on banks that do business with entities found to violate the law.
The measure, sponsored by US senators Pat Toomey and Chris van Hollen, comes as tensions over Hong Kong have increased over the past year as China has cracked down on protesters and sought to exert more control over the former British territory.
“Today, the Senate stood up to the communist regime in Beijing and stood with the people of Hong Kong,” Toomey said. “The mandatory sanctions established in this bill will punish those in China who seek to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or erode the basic freedoms promised” to Hong Kong residents under its “one country, two systems” principle.
Van Hollen said that the bill takes “meaningful action to hold China and its proxies to account for their ongoing efforts to extinguish liberty and democracy in Hong Kong.”
The legislation “sends a strong, bipartisan message that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong,” he said.
Meanwhile, China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee is likely to vote on the national security legislation at a meeting starting tomorrow, a senior official said, even as a new poll showed that more than half of Hong Kongers oppose it.
The committee is “very likely” to pass the legislation before the scheduled conclusion of its session on Tuesday, said Maria Tam (譚惠珠), deputy director of the Committee for the Basic Law.
“Whether it would be ready before the meeting this weekend, we will only know when we arrive in Beijing, but it’s very likely it will be passed at this session,” Tam told Radio Television Hong Kong.
Fifty-six percent of Hong Kong residents oppose the planned legislation, according to a Reuters/Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute poll released yesterday.
The poll found that 34 percent of respondents supported the move, while 9 percent were uncertain.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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