Political News

Senate approves final sanctions bill to punish China over Hong Kong

Posted July 2, 2020 1:53 p.m. EDT

— The US Senate has approved a final version of legislation that would punish China for moves that lawmakers fear will crush democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act would impose sanctions on businesses and individuals that help China restrict Hong Kong's autonomy. It was approved by unanimous consent Thursday, and it will now go to President Donald Trump's desk.

The Senate initially passed the bill last week and the House approved it on Wednesday with a slight technical change, according to Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, the co-authors of the legislation. Therefore the Senate needed to approve the slightly changed version before sending it to Trump.

The move by lawmakers comes as China has passed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that lends Beijing sweeping new powers over the semi-autonomous city.

Critics say the law, which wasn't revealed to the public until after it was passed, marks an erosion of the city's precious civil and political freedoms; the Chinese and local governments argue it's necessary to curb unrest and uphold mainland sovereignty.

The legislation has been widely criticized by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights groups and politicians worldwide, with many saying it will cement Beijing's direct control over the semi-autonomous city.

Many worry it could be used to target political dissidents, activists, human rights lawyers and journalists amid the central government's continuing crackdown on civil society under Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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