Beijing criticises passing of HK Bill by US congressional panels

Protesters march from Chater Garden to the US consulate in Hong Kong on Sep 8, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • China has deplored and strongly opposed the passing of the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 by US congressional committees, and urged the United States to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs.

The Act confuses right and wrong in total disregard of the facts, brazenly bolsters violent radicals in Hong Kong and grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement released yesterday morning.

Since the return of Hong Kong to the China in 1997, policies including "one country, two systems", "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy have been earnestly carried out, and Hong Kong residents' rights and freedom have been fully guaranteed, Mr Geng said.

Hong Kong has been racked for months by protests over a now-withdrawn extradition Bill - which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial - that have since evolved into broader calls for greater democracy, among other demands.

There has been violent unrest in parts of the former British colony over the last three months, but life for most people goes on as normal most of the time.

"All these acts went far beyond normal peaceful demonstrations and assemblies, trampled on social morality, violated the baseline of the rule of law and challenged the bottom line of the 'one country, two systems' principle," Mr Geng said in the statement.

He added that it has become a broad consensus for all walks of life in Hong Kong to stop the violence and restore order.

The central government of China firmly supports the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Hong Kong police and the HKSAR judiciary in carrying out their duties in accordance with the law, said the spokesman.

Congressional committees in the US House and Senate on Wednesday approved legislation supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, warning China that any crackdown could revoke the city's special trading status with the US.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would require annual assessments of whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify its unique treatment under US law.

The Senate panel approved a Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida a few hours after the House committee passed a companion Bill sponsored by Republican Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey.

The swift advancement of both measures underscores the bipartisan support for the protesters in Hong Kong and concerns about China's reaction to the movement, which has gained momentum since the city's leader Carrie Lam introduced legislation to allow extraditions to China several months ago.

"It is absolutely essential that we speak out in regard to what is happening in Hong Kong," said Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and another one of the Senate Bill's sponsors.

The Act would also require the President to report to Congress and impose sanctions on the individuals responsible for "abducting and torturing" human rights activists.

Mr Geng said the two committees persisted in reviewing and approving the Hong Kong-related Act in disregard of the appeals of all sectors of Hong Kong society and basic norms of international relations, wantonly backing radical forces and violent activists in Hong Kong.

"The approval of the Act by US congressional committees can only embolden radicals and violent activists to further destabilise Hong Kong, which will jeopardise the interests of both China and the US," Mr Geng said.

XINHUA, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2019, with the headline Beijing criticises passing of HK Bill by US congressional panels. Subscribe