Trump expected to sign Hong Kong human rights Bill despite China warnings

Protesters leave Hong Kong Polytechnic University with medical personnel on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong on Nov 20, 2019.
Protesters leave Hong Kong Polytechnic University with medical personnel on the fourth day of a stand-off with police in Hong Kong on Nov 20, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump is expected to sign legislation passed by Congress supporting Hong Kong protesters, setting up a confrontation with China that could imperil a long-awaited trade deal between the world's two largest economies.

The Bill, approved unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday (Nov 19), passed the House 417-1 on Wednesday and could go to Mr Trump as soon as Thursday. A person familiar with the matter said Mr Trump plans to sign the Bill.

"The Congress is sending an unmistakable message to the world that the United States stands in solidarity with freedom-loving people of Hong Kong and that we fully support their fight for freedom," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor.

"This has been a very unifying issue for us."

The remarkable bipartisan support for taking a tough stance with China creates one of the toughest economic and foreign policy challenges of Mr Trump's presidency. He desperately needs the China trade deal - and the economic bump from resolving that uncertainty - as he ramps up his campaign for re-election.

"After the Senate unanimously passed our Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, I applaud Speaker Pelosi for taking swift action to send this Bill directly to President Trump's desk for signature," Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and an original sponsor of the Senate legislation, said in a statement.

"I urge the president to sign this critical Bill into law as soon as possible."

The Bill, S. 1838, would require annual reviews of Hong Kong's special status under US law and sanction officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses and undermining the city's autonomy.

Mr Trump has been silent as the Hong Kong protests escalated into violence in recent weeks, even as lawmakers of both parties demanded action on the measure. Chinese officials quickly responded to the Bill's Senate passage on Tuesday, saying Beijing "firmly" opposes the congressional action, which it considers a grave violation of international law.


"We stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong," said Republican Representative Chris Smith, who has been pushing the legislation since the 2014 Hong Kong protests. "There will be strong sanctions, other ramifications for this crackdown."

The House also passed a Bill, S. 2710, that the Senate passed on Tuesday to ban the export of crowd control items such as tear gas and rubber bullets to Hong Kong police.

The Democratic-led House used an expedited process to quickly pass the Senate Bill rather than trying to reconcile it with the slightly different version the House unanimously passed last month. This was the quickest way to approve the legislation before Congress recesses for Thanksgiving next week.