China warns of payback as HK act takes big step

Top News | Cindy Wan and Bloomberg 17 Oct 2019

Beijing has threatened to retaliate against Washington with unspecified "strong countermeasures" if the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is enacted.

This came after the US House of Representatives unanimously approved the bill.

To become law, the legislation must pass through both houses and be signed by US President Donald Trump.

It is expected to pass the Senate, where it currently has the bipartisan co-sponsorship of 23 senators, with the voting time unconfirmed.

The act, introduced by New Jersey Republican congressman Chris Smith, requires the US government to annually assess Hong Kong's political autonomy to determine if it still merits a special trade status as a separate entity from China. The bill would allow for US sanctions against individuals deemed responsible for undermining Hong Kong's fundamental freedoms and autonomy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang yesterday said Beijing is warning US lawmakers to stop meddling in China's internal affairs "before it falls off the edge of the cliff."

He said: "The House of Representatives is disregarding and distorting facts by referring to serious criminal offenses such as arson, smashing of shops and violence against police officers as an issue of human rights and democracy."

The House of Representatives also passed House Resolution 543, which reaffirms relations between the United States and Hong Kong, condemns mainland interference, and voices support for SAR protesters.

Lawmakers next approved the Protect Hong Kong Act, which halts the export of crowd-control devices such as tear gas and rubber bullets.

Yang Guang, spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, blamed Washington for supporting radical anti-China forces and intensifying protests.

"It has exposed the political plot of the House of Representatives and some politicians to curb China's development with Hong Kong's situation," he said.

The liaison office in Hong Kong said the United States would "lift the stone only to drop on its own feet."

The SAR government took the same tone as Beijing, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressing extreme regret over the passage of the bill.

Smith predicted that the Senate would pass the legislation and dismissed Beijing's threats.

"Retaliation, that's all they ever talk," Smith said. "They try to browbeat and cower people, countries, presidents, prime ministers and the like all over in order to get them to back off."

cindymt.wan@singtaonewscorp.com

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