Beijing summons US diplomat, warns of ‘strong measures’ over Hong Kong rights Bill

Police detain protesters and students after they tried to flee outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong on Nov 19, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS) - China's foreign ministry on Wednesday (Nov 20) summoned a top US diplomat over the Senate's passing of a Hong Kong rights bill, warning of strong countermeasures against the United States should the legislation be signed into law.

The US Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation aimed at protecting human rights in Hong Kong, amid clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police.

China's Vice-Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu called in acting charge d'affaires William Klein to lodge a "strong protest", the ministry said in a statement.

"We strongly urge the US side to immediately take effective measures to prevent this bill from becoming law" and stop meddling in China's internal affairs, the statement said. "Otherwise, the Chinese side will take strong measures to resolutely counter it, and the US side must bear all the consequences," it said.

Earlier on Wednesday, China condemned the US Senate measure on Hong Kong, vowing to take the steps necessary to safeguard its sovereignty and security.

"This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China's other internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a statement.

"It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations. China condemns and firmly opposes it," he said.

The United States must immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's other internal affairs, or "the negative consequences will boomerang on itself", Mr Geng added.

Separately, Hong Kong's government expressed "extreme regret" over the Bill, saying it would negatively impact relations between Hong Kong and the US.

In a statement issued hours after the Senate unanimously approved the act and a related piece of legislation banning the sale of crowd-control weapons to Hong Kong, the government described the legislation as "unnecessary and unwarranted", local broadcaster RTHK reported.

"Any unilateral change of US economic and trade policy towards Hong Kong will create negative impact on the relations between the two sides as well as US' own interests," a spokesman said.

The spokesman also reiterated that foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.

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