U.S. senators propose law for annual certification of Hong Kong autonomy
(Reuters) – U.S. lawmakers on Thursday responded to the crisis in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition law with China by introducing legislation that would require the U.S. government to justify the continuation of special treatment for the territory.
The bipartisan Senate legislation, sponsored by several senior senators, would require the U.S. secretary of state to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify special treatment under the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
The proposed law, introduced by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, would also require the U.S. president to identify those responsible for the abduction of booksellers and other individuals from Hong Kong and subject them to U.S. sanctions.
In Beijing on Friday, the foreign ministry expressed “extreme dissatisfaction” with the proposed U.S. bill, calling it “irresponsible carping and crude interference”.
China called on the United States “to give up its delusions of creating chaos in Hong Kong, stop pushing the proposed bill and to stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs,” spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular media briefing.
The bill would also require the president to issue a strategy to protect U.S. citizens and business from the effects of a revised extradition law and the U.S. Commerce Department to issue an annual report assessing whether Hong Kong was adequately enforcing U.S. and U.N. sanctions, particularly those on Iran and North Korea.
In addition, the legislation would make clear that Hong Kong citizens should not be denied visas to the United States if they were arrested or detained in connection with protest activity there.
The legislation was expected to be introduced to the House on Thursday.
Scuffles broke out between demonstrators and police in Hong Kong on Thursday as hundreds of people persevered with a protest against the extradition law a day after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up big crowds.
Wednesday’s protests around the city’s legislature forced the postponement of debate on the bill, which many in Hong Kong fear will undermine freedoms and confidence in the commercial hub.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Additional reporting by Huizhong Wu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)