US President Donald Trump signed the bills, which were approved by near unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping

By Ian Horswill


Posted on November 28, 2019

US President Donald Trump signed two bills aimed at supporting human rights and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, which has witnessed six months of violent confrontations between police and demonstrators.

Trump signed the bills, which were approved by near unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping, AP News reported.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”

Congress approved the bills last week following the months of unrest in Hong Kong, the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Hong Kong

The legislation has provoked a backlash from China, with the government on Monday summoning US ambassador Terry Branstad to China to warn him that the US’ passage of the legislation last week constituted “meddling” in the country’s internal affairs and would result in “consequences”. The summoning of Branstad by vice-minister of foreign affairs Zheng Zeguang was the third protest issued by Beijing in less than a week over the legislation.

“All consequences arising (from the bill’s becoming law) must be borne entirely by the United States,” Zheng’s ministry announced after his meeting with Branstad, South China Morning Post reported.

China had threatened to take unspecified, “strong countermeasures” if the bills were signed into law.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favourable trade status that the US gives Hong Kong.

The second bill prohibits export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, stun guns and tasers.

Trump said last week that he was weighing the ramifications of signing the bill.

“Look, we have to stand with Hong Kong,” Trump said in an interview on Fox & Friends. “But I’m also standing with President Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy.”