US Senate Passes Hong Kong Autonomy Act

  • Sen. Van Hollen (D-MD) said the legislation will send a clear message to Beijing that if China takes actions that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, there will be consequences.
  • At the request of the Trump administration, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), another co-sponsor of the bill, proposed a technical amendment.
  • A former UN Human Rights Commissioner and eight former UN envoys urged the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy for Hong Kong.

The US Senate has passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Law on Thursday, which will impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that support China’s restrictions on Hong Kong’s autonomy. This is seen as a counterattack against Beijing’s enactment of the “National Security Law.

The United States–Hong Kong Policy Act, or more commonly known as the Hong Kong Policy Act or Hong Kong Relations Act, is a 1992 act enacted by the United States Congress. It allows the United States to continue to treat Hong Kong separately from Mainland China for matters concerning trade export and economics control after the 1997 handover. On May 27, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Hong Kong “no longer autonomous”, putting its special designation into uncertainty.

The bill still has to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by President Trump before it will take effect. The bill also says that if a bank does business with a person who violates Hong Kong’s autonomy, it will be restricted from cooperating with US banks and be restricted from dealing in US dollars.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is one of the main sponsors. He said in the Senate that the legislation will send a clear message to Beijing that if China takes actions that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, there will be consequences.

Sen. Van Hollen said that the Hong Kong Autonomy Law had been passed last week, but at the request of the Trump administration, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), another co-sponsor of the bill, proposed a technical amendment.

As the Trump administration seeks to reach a trade agreement, two major powers compete for international influence and conflicts over human rights, this delay highlights the complexity of passing legislation to fight back against China.

United Nations Experts Speak Out Collectively

A former UN Human Rights Commissioner and eight former UN envoys urged the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy for Hong Kong, saying they are deeply concerned about the potential “humanitarian tragedy.”

Zeid Raad Al-Hussein, who was the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights during 2014-2018, and the eight former special rapporteurs, called for the United Nations to take special action because of the “severity of the deterioration, the impending grave threats under the new security law, (and) the symbolism that a human rights crisis in what had been one of Asia’s freest cities entails.”

The Hong Kong national security law is a decision adopted by the third session of the thirteenth National People’s Congress, to authorize the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to promulgate a national security law in Hong Kong. The pan-democratic camp, human rights organisations and politicians abroad have criticised the decision as a threat to the “one country, two systems” principle, the rule of law and civil liberties.

They said in a statement, “we believe there are now very real fears of a human rights and humanitarian tragedy in Hong Kong.”

“It is imperative that the international community, and particularly the United Nations and its member states, act urgently to establish a mechanism for observing, monitoring and reporting on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Hong Kong.”

Former British Foreign Secretary Adds Voice

Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the actions of former United Nations officials on Thursday sent a strong message, and showed that the Hong Kong crisis has evolved from a local dispute to an international crisis. However, he admitted that China’s veto power in the Security Council has made it more difficult for the United Nations to take further action.

Politicians and legislators in the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, and elsewhere have been considering that if Beijing continues to advance and promulgate laws, they will choose to unite in collective action.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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