China ready to 'fight back' over US Hong Kong Bill

Protesters display a US flag inside Polytechnic University of Hong Kong on Nov 20, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING (AFP) - China warned on Thursday (Nov 21) that it was ready to take measures to "resolutely fight back" after the US Congress approved legislation supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed the House of Representatives by 417 to 1 on Wednesday, one day after the Senate unanimously passed the measure.

The Bill requires the US president to annually review the favourable trade status that Washington grants to Hong Kong, and threatens to revoke it if the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's freedoms are quashed.

The White House has not threatened to veto the measure and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it, according to a source familiar with the matter.

"We strongly condemn and firmly oppose the passage of relevant Hong Kong-related Bills," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

Mr Geng warned the United States against interfering in Hong Kong and China's internal affairs.

"If the US side is determined to act alone, China will take effective measures to resolutely fight back," he said, without giving more details about what action Beijing might take.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government said the two Acts will not only interfere in the internal affairs of Hong Kong, but will also send an erroneous signal to violent protesters in the city, which would not be conducive to de-escalating the situation in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, a government spokesman had said that the "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act" and the other Act on Hong Kong were unnecessary and unwarranted.

He also warned that they would harm relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US.

"The US has enormous economic interests in Hong Kong, including earning from Hong Kong the largest bilateral trade surplus amongst its global trading partners for the past decade, and the surplus stood at over US$33 billion (S$45 billion) last year," the spokesman said.

"Any unilateral change of US economic and trade policy towards Hong Kong would create a negative impact on the relations between the two sides as well as the US' own interests," he said, adding that Hong Kong and the US have close cooperation on export control and law enforcement.

The Hong Kong government hopes to continue to work with the US in maintaining a "mutually beneficial, cooperative relationship", the spokesman said, expressing hope that this would motivate the US government to avoid enshrining the Acts as law.

He also reiterated the Hong Kong government's position that foreign governments and legislature should not interfere in Hong Kong's internal affairs.

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