U.S. Senate Foreign Relations chairman hopes Hong Kong bill will move soon
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday he hoped that the full Senate would vote soon on legislation that would require the State Department to evaluate, at least once per year, whether Hong Kong had retained its autonomy.
The House of Representatives passed similar legislation on Tuesday, requiring certification that Hong Kong retained its autonomy from Beijing in order to keep receiving the special treatment that has allowed it to be a major financial center.
The Senate bill, the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” passed the foreign relations panel unanimously in September.
Risch told reporters he hoped the bill would move shortly. An aide said a vote could come as soon as next week.
Passage in both the House and Senate would send the legislation to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto. White House aides declined comment on Trump’s view of the bill.
U.S. lawmakers said they wanted to take an aggressive stance on China and show support for Hong Kong following four months of unrest in the city.
The measures have garnered strong backing in the U.S. Congress, from Democrats as well as Trump’s fellow Republicans, despite delicate U.S.-China trade talks.
Hong Kong has been rocked by massive marches and at times violent protests involving teargas, petrol bombs and live rounds, over concerns Beijing is tightening its grip on the city and eroding democratic rights.
Beijing rejects the charge and accuses Western countries, like the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble.
A spokesman for the Senate’s Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, did not have an update on a schedule for a Senate vote on the legislation.
Separately, a top State Department official expressed support for free expression in Hong Kong in an appearance before a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Wednesday.
“In Hong Kong, we believe that the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly – core values that we share with the people of Hong Kong – must be vigorously protected. We continue to urge Beijing to uphold its commitments,” David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs said.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom and Steve Holland; editing by Alistair Bell)
More Top Stories
Jurors in the sexual assault trial of former movie producer Harvey Weinstein are expected to begin their fifth day of deliberations on Monday, after suggesting …read more
The Dow Jones Industrials index was set to shed nearly 800 points at the open on Monday as investors scurried to safer assets after a …read more
Republicans raised concerns this week about the security of the U.S. drug supply chain in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China, where a …read more
Fears of a coronavirus pandemic grew on Monday after sharp rises in new cases reported in Iran, Italy and South Korea but China relaxed restrictions …read more
Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders came under fire on Monday for comments about late Cuban President Fidel Castro, while moderate rival Joe Biden rolled out …read more
A car drove into a crowd at a carnival parade in the German town of Volkmarsen on Monday and several people are believed to be …read more