China warns US over Hong Kong bill

Local | Michael Shum 14 Nov 2019

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs wants US lawmakers to immediately stop pushing a bill to support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, saying it would only increase social unrest.

His comments came after the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said yesterday he wanted the Senate to pass legislation to support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The ministry's spokesman, Geng Shuang, said Beijing has lodged solemn representations with Washington, and the bill would jeopardize their relationship.

"This US congressman turned a blind eye to the protesters' rampant smashing, destroying and vandalizing and brazenly boosting the arrogance of the Hong Kong radicals and rioters," Geng said.

Geng also emphasized that the issue in Hong Kong is China's internal affairs, and the US should immediately stop pushing the bill.

The ministry's comments were in response to Republican Senator Jim Risch, a co-sponsor and "strong proponent" of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would place Hong Kong's special treatment by the United States under tighter scrutiny.

"The world needs to see that the United States will stand up and say this is wrong, we stand with the people of Hong Kong," Risch said.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill in mid-October, drawing accusations from Beijing that the US lawmakers had "sinister intentions."

Risch's Foreign Relations Committee approved a similar measure in September, but it has not been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate, which must pass the bill before it can be sent to President Donald Trump.

The White House, which is engaged in intense trade negotiations with China, has yet to say whether he would sign or veto it.

Risch and fellow Republican Senator Marco Rubio were to meet on Wednesday (US time) with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the possibility of getting floor time for a vote on the bill, aides said.

Asked if McConnell would allow a vote in the Senate, a spokesman pointed to his remarks in the Senate on Tuesday expressing concern about the violence.

"I'm eager to continue working with colleagues such as Senator Risch, Senator [Lindsey] Graham, Senator Rubio, and others toward a strong and procedurally workable solution," McConnell said.

In Hong Kong, dozens of elderly people in Hong Kong organized a rally yesterday at the US and British consulates to voice their support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and protest against the use of excessive force by police officers during recent social unrest.

Meanwhile, the European Union also weighed in on the matter, declaring that a full investigation would be needed to de-escalate the situation as recent clashes between police and protesters had reached new levels.

Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for foreign affairs and security policy of the European Union, said: "A comprehensive inquiry into the violence, use of force and the root causes of the protests is a critical element in de-escalation efforts."

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com

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