US Congress targets banks to ramp up fight for HK rights

4 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: The US Congress on Thursday passed tough new sanctions that target banks over violations of Hong Kong’s autonomy, dialing up the pressure on China over the harsh security law it imposed on the financial hub, reports AFP. 

Beijing has threatened “strong countermeasures” if the act becomes law. President Donald Trump has not said if he will sign it, although a member of his Republican Party voiced confidence that he would and lawmakers likely could override a veto.

“Our timing could not be more critical,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat who helped shepherd through the bipartisan measure. “We will not stand still and silent and do nothing while they crack down on freedom in Hong Kong,” he said on the Senate floor.

In a legislative fast-track move that does not require a full vote, the Senate unanimously approved the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, a day after the House of Representatives did likewise.

The Senate already passed the act last week, but it needed to vote once more due to technical changes made by the House. The Hong Kong Autonomy Act goes significantly further than a sanctions law last year, which Trump reluctantly signed in the face of protests from Beijing.

The new legislation targets Chinese officials as well as the Hong Kong police, making US sanctions against them mandatory if they are identified in two consecutive government reports as working to restrict Hong Kong’s freedoms.