- Kyodo News via Getty Images
- The House on Wednesday rushed to pass a bill meant to protect human rights in Hong Kong as protests continued to rage in the semiautonomous Chinese city.
- On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed their own version of a Hong Kong human rights bill.
- Both forms of legislation now head to President Donald Trump for approval.
- The Senate legislation, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, would essentially require the State Department to ensure that the city’s “one country, two systems” agreement with China be upheld each year for the US government to continue to afford Hong Kong with special trade status.
- The Senate bill would also consider sanctions against people involved in human rights abuses against Hong Kong citizens and would ensure visa protections for protesters in the US.
- The quick passage of legislation comes with protests in Hong Kong ongoing after six months and approaching a fever pitch.
- Last week, at several university campuses, the police fired tear gas and blue dye at protesters who launched bows and arrows and Molotov cocktails.
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The House on Wednesday quickly passed a bill meant to protect human rights in Hong Kong as protests continued to rage in the semiautonomous Chinese city.
The House move follows similar action taken by the Senate on Tuesday, which unanimously passed its own version of a Hong Kong human rights bill.
The Senate legislation, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, would essentially require the State Department to ensure that the city’s “one county, two systems” agreement with China be upheld each year for the government to continue to afford Hong Kong with special trade status.
The Senate bill would also consider sanctions against people involved in human rights abuses against Hong Kong citizens and would ensure visa protections for protesters in the US.
The Senate version of the legislation was introduced in May by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has been a vocal critic of Chinese policy and human-rights abuses, while the House version of the bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.
Both pieces of legislation will now be sent to President Donald Trump for approval.
“The people of Hong Kong see what’s coming – they see the steady effort to erode the autonomy and their freedoms,” Rubio said.
“We have sent a message to President Xi – your suppression of freedom, whether in Hong Kong, in northwest China or in anywhere else, will not stand,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
“You cannot be a great leader – and you cannot be a great country – when you oppose freedom, and when you are so brutal to the people of Hong Kong, young and old, who are protesting.”
China’s foreign ministry condemned the Senate’s passage of the bill on Tuesday and vowed to protect the country’s national security.
Protests are reaching a fever pitch
- Anthony Kwan/Getty Images
Protests in Hong Kong began in June against a bill that would have allowed for the extradition of residents to China to face trial. But in the six months since protests erupted, they have morphed into an increasingly violent fight against Chinese encroachment and police brutality.
Last week, protesters clashed with the police at several university campuses. Hong Kong Polytechnic University, located in the Hung Hom area of the Kowloon district, became a battleground for pro-democracy protesters against riot police, who surrounded the perimeter and launched tear gas and water cannons filled with blue liquid at students taking refuge on campus.
Protesters responded by firing Molotov cocktails and other makeshift weapons at the police.
In a statement, university authorities said they were “gravely concerned that the spiraling radical illicit activities will cause not only a tremendous safety threat on campus, but also class suspension over an indefinite period of time.”
The police on Sunday evening threatened to arrest protesters and charge them with rioting, an offense that carries up to 10 years in prison. By Monday morning, the police stormed the campus and threatened to use live rounds if protesters did not “stop assaulting the police using cars, gas bombs, and bows and arrows.”
By Monday morning, video appeared to show protesters leaving the campus en masse, though some students tried to evade the police and escape the burning campus by scaling a nearby bridge and arranging with those on the outside to drive away on a motorcycle.
This university in Hong Kong has become a battleground
Police clashed with protesters who were trying to escape the campus, in some of the worst violence seen in the long-running anti-government protests
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 18, 2019
As of Tuesday evening, it was believed that about 100 or more students were still trapped inside the university.
A protester actively working on the frontlines who was at Polytechnic University during the initial stages of the clashes told Business Insider that protesters were exhausted but would continue to turn out to fight.
“We know that if we don’t fight now, we will lose completely,” the person said. “Everyone is exhausted, mentally, physically. But I think the spirit is still there, and we know that we need to keep fighting. There’s no other choice. “