Hong Kong lights up as Donald Trump OKs rights bill

Updated: Nov 29, 2019, 07:49 IST | Agencies | Washington

Hong Kong protesters hail US prez's monumental decision; China threatens 'firm countermeasures' against America

Washington: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bill that supports pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, a move that has angered China. The legislation proposes to impose sanctions on officials committing human rights violations against pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong. The 'Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019', which reaffirms and amends the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, specifies US policy towards Hong Kong, directs assessment of the political developments in Asia's financial hub, and other purposes.

'Signed bill for peace'
"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement. "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," he added.

People hold up lights from their phones; a participant holds up Pepe the Frog, a character used as a symbol of their struggle, at  a gathering of thanks after Donald Trump signed the bill. Pics/AFPPeople hold up lights from their phones; a participant holds up Pepe the Frog, a character used as a symbol of their struggle, at a gathering of thanks after Donald Trump signed the bill. Pics/AFP

Top US lawmakers, authors of the bill, applauded Trump for signing the legislation and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong celebrated his monumental decision. "The US now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong's internal affairs," Senator Marco Rubio said. "Following historic polls in Hong Kong, this new law could not be timelier in showing strong US support for Hong Kongers' long-cherished freedoms," Rubio said.

"The Act is an important step forward in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and its repression of fundamental human rights," Senator Jim Risch said. "The signing of the bill into law ensures the US finally sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Hong Kong: We are with you," Ranking Member Bob Menendez said.

China threatens retaliation
Irked by the move, China accused the US of harbouring "sinister intentions" and warned of "countermeasures" hours after Trump gave the go-ahead to the bill. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said, "This is a severe interference in Hong Kong's affairs, which are China's internal affairs". "It is also in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. The Chinese government and people firmly oppose such stark hegemonic acts," the statement said.

"The nature of this is extremely abominable, and harbours absolutely sinister intentions," the statement said. "This act will only further expose the malicious and hegemonic nature of US intentions to the Chinese people, including our Hong Kong compatriots. And the Chinese people will only stand in greater solidarity. The US attempts are bound to fail," it said.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police entered the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Thursday, 11 days after the siege. University staff said they were able to find only one protester.

What The Act Says

. Hong Kong is part of China but has a largely separate legal and economic system
. Act mandates an annual review to check if Hong Kong has enough autonomy
. The review shall assess whether China has eroded Hong Kong's civil liberties and rule of law
. The US should allow Hong Kong residents to obtain US visas, even if they have been arrested for being part of non-violent protests
. US president can impose travel restrictions and sanctions on those found to be knowingly responsible for arbitrary detention, torture of anyone in Hong Kong

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