Just when relations with China seemed to be settling down, the communist regime decided to launch an anti-democracy crackdown on Hong Kong. Now the administration is responding. On Wednesday, President Trump signed two bills that will show Beijing the US is displeased and, maybe, reduce the communists’ ability to use force on pro-democracy crowds.
Hong Kong has been wracked with political unrest since March when the former colony’s Legislative Council (LegCo) tried to pass an extradition law that could have seen suspects from Hong Kong extradited to mainland China’s brutal justice system.
- When Hong Kong was returned to China from British administration in 1997, the terms of the handover treaty gave it a new status as a “Special Autonomous Region” with limited democracy and a different system from the undemocratic mainland.
- However, a succession of compliant LegCo chief executives, leading up to current incumbent Carrie Lam, has steadily eroded Hong Kong’s autonomy, slowly bringing it more into line with the mainland — against the wishes of most residents.
- When the LegCo tried to push through the extradition bill, public opposition quickly escalated starting with a mass demonstration on June 9. Heavy-handed attempts to suppress the demonstrations led to increasing violence, with guns used by the police and demonstrators retaliating with bows and arrows, among other improvised weapons.
- Now Congress has voted through two bills to make a stand against China’s repressive tactics, and President Trump has signed them both.
- The first bill is the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). This bill authorizes an annual assessment of whether Hong Kong is still autonomous enough to qualify for special trade privileges that mainland China doesn’t get. It also waives some visa requirements for pro-democracy protestors who’ve been arrested.
- The second bill, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) bans the export of tear gas, rubber bullets and other riot control equipment to the Hong Kong Police Force. This is mostly symbolic, as China has a large weapons industry and can make its own riot control gear, but it does send an important message.
- President Trump said:
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong. They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”
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