China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned a top US diplomat over the Senate’s passing of a Hong Kong rights bill, warning of strong countermeasures against the United States should the legislation be signed into law.
Vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu called in acting charge d’affaires William Klein to lodge a strong protest, the ministry said in a statement.
“We strongly urge the US side to immediately take effective measures to prevent this bill from becoming law” and stop meddling in China’s internal affairs, the statement said.
“Otherwise, the Chinese side will take strong measures to resolutely counter it, and the US side must bear all the consequences,” it said.
Earlier, In a show of solidarity with pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong, the US Senate has unanimously passed a legislation 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 semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has its own legal and political systems, differently from the Chinese mainland when it comes to trade and export controls. The bill – if it becomes law will demand greater scrutiny of the city’s special status
The bill, which among other things prohibit the commercial export of certain munitions to the Communist party-controlled Hong Kong Police Force, would provide sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. The House of Representatives passed a similar legislation in October.
“This bill sends an important message of bipartisan support from the US Congress for the democratic aspirations of the broad majority of the people of Hong Kong,” Senator Dick Durbin said.
Senators Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin, and Bob Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, praised Senate’s passage of their bill.
Since June, Hong Kong has seen massive, regular demonstrations, which started in opposition to a proposed bill that would have allowed its citizens to be extradited to the mainland. The protests quickly morphed into wider calls for democracy and opposition to growing Chinese influence.