The Hong Kong Autonomy Act rolled off the U.S. Senate’s printer and was handed to the House of Representatives on Thursday. It provides for sanctions against those in China who support the move to stifle Hong Kong. Specifically, the Act seeks to sanction individuals, banks, and other entities that enable the violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration which established the city's autonomy.
The move was a reaction to Beijing’s new national security law targeting Hong Kong, which passed in late May by the National People’s Congress. The law aims to ban “any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion,” The New York Times reported.
Yet to be drafted, few of the controversial law's details were disclosed this week among which, as CNN reported, Beijing will be able extend its ruling in certain criminal cases enabling the extradition of suspects for trial in China. Thus, the extradition bill that kicked off the protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and helped wreck its economy – is back, this time with all the force of the Communist Party behind it. (Hong Kong city leader Carrie Lam later withdrew the extradition bill amid the protests.)
The Trump Administration reacted early to Beijing’s move, deeming the city no longer autonomous from China and hence breaking the favorable trade agreement with Hong Kong. Debate ensued over Washington’s response to the new law, as any sanctions against Hong Kong would hurt the city more than it would hurt China. President Trump reiterated his support for the U.S.-China trade deal this week.
The bill was introduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, and passed unanimously after some amendments to the draft were carried out on Wednesday at the request of the White House.
After China's enactment of the new national security law was confirmed, Hong Kong citizens took to the streets in a now too-familiar act of protest against Communist Rule. A video of Hongkongers shouting “Hong Kong independence is the only way out” circulated in the media, and slew of arrests took place. On Thursday, the SCMP reported that police fired pepper spray and arrested 14 “shopping protesters” in a Hong Kong mall for illegal assembly.