US Senate close to moving on HK rights

Local | Cissy So 15 Nov 2019

The US Senate may start discussing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act within the next two days, according to Demosisto.

And legislative procedure could be completed by next Friday, the Hong Kong political party said on its Facebook page.

Marco Rubio, who sponsored the bill, said there has been significant movement on advancing it following a meeting with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who will make the call on whether to put the bill to a vote, and senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Rubio went on Twitter on Wednesday to say "very significant progress" toward passing the bill in the Senate was made that day.

More than a third of the Senate had signed on to the bill by yesterday, but McConnell controls the legislative agenda and will decide when it can go for debate and a vote.

Rubio also warned that more action to curtail Hong Kong autonomy would risk censure by the United States. That came in a joint statement with Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.

The two are co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which monitors human rights and the rule of law.

"The escalating violence in Hong Kong is extremely concerning, and the premeditated attack on university campuses, where over 1,000 rounds of teargas were used, raises disturbing questions as to whether the Chinese government's strategy is to create more chaos," the statement said.

"We also urge the Chinese government to consider the likely costs of any additional measures to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy," it added. They could include "curtailed access to the global financial system and new sanctions by the United States and the international community."

Republican senator Risch, a co-sponsor of the bill, is backing movement on the act, which would put Hong Kong's special treatment by the United States as an autonomous entity under tighter scrutiny.

"We want it moved," he said of taking action on the act during a discussion on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China has lodged "stern representations" with Washington about the legislation and urged that it not be passed into law.

In September, several Hong Kong activists including Demosisto secretary-general Joshua Wong Chi-fung went to Washington to push for the bill to be passed when they appeared at a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

cissy.so@singtaonewscorp.com

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