House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and another bill that would block American exports of non-lethal crowd control products to the Hong Kong police force on Thursday morning, sending a strong message to Chinese leader Xi Jinping after months of pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous region.
“With the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, we reaffirm America’s commitment to democracy and human rights and the rule of law in the face of Beijing’s crackdown,” Pelosi said.
Now, the bills will go to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs committee, told CNN he was confident Trump will sign the legislation. Although he hadn’t spoken to the President about it personally, he said, “the administration, they’re very supportive.”
“I can’t see, well it would fly in the face of the truth,” McCaul added. “This is happening in Hong Kong, and we need to support the people of Hong Kong.”
The House approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act with a vote of 417-1 on Wednesday. The lone “no” vote on the bill was libertarian ideologue Rep. Thomas Massie. He told CNN afterward that he agreed “with 90% of that bill, but I’ve never voted for sanctions against a sovereign country.” Meanwhile, the companion crowd control bill passed without any opposition in the House, with a vote of 417-0.
The House had previously passed a slightly different version of the legislation, both versions of which would require an annual review of the city’s autonomy from the Chinese mainland government and whether it is sufficient to warrant the special legal treatment Hong Kong receives from the United States. The bill would also allow sanctions on officials found to be responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. The Senate approved its own version of the measure – which has now been passed by both chambers – unanimously on Tuesday night.
Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have long urged American lawmakers to approve the legislation. The Chinese government on Wednesday slammed senators for passing it, arguing the legislation “neglects facts and truth” and “blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs.”
In a statement released by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spokesperson Geng Shuang said “China will have to take strong countermeasures to defend our national sovereignty, security and development interests if the US insists on making the wrong decisions.”
Beijing’s strong reaction didn’t phase American lawmakers.
“Let me just say this to President Xi: This resolution is what America thinks of you and your policies towards the people in Hong Kong and also towards the Uighurs in northwest China and your oppressive rule throughout,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday. “Don’t take any word of the President that everything’s okay. It is not. What you’re doing in Hong Kong and elsewhere damages your standing dramatically here in America and throughout the world.”
And House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern said the bills’ passage sends “a clear and unmistakable message to Beijing. We will not stand idly by while the Chinese government stifles free expression and tightens their grip on Hong Kong.”
He also highlighted the uncommon bipartisan consensus surrounding the issue and urged Trump to quickly sign the bills.
“We’re living in a very polarized time. It’s hard to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on what to have for lunch, never mind an important piece of legislation. But we have come together on this legislation,” McGovern said. “I urge the President to sign this bill right away, so the people in Hong Kong know the United States does not hesitate to stand with them and their struggle for a democratic future.”