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US Senate passes bill to impose sanctions on China over Hong Kong security law

China is introducing a new national security law for Hong Kong that has sparked protests in the semi-autonomous city.

Jun 26, 2020 15:47 IST
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The US Senate on June 25, 20202 passed a bill that seeks to impose sanctions on China for its decision to implement the controversial national security law in Hong Kong. The bill was passed with unanimous consent.

The bill comprises two measures, one of which- the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, aims to impose sanctions on individuals and businesses that help China restrict the autonomy of Hong Kong. The measure was jointly introduced by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

The second measure was pushed by Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. It is a resolution that condemns China for violating the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 to guarantee autonomy for Hong Kong.

Key Highlights 

While pushing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, Democratic Senator Van Hollen stated that "What the government of China is doing in Hong Kong is unacceptable.” He stated that the law will take away the rights of people living in Hong Kong.

According to Republican Senator Josh Hawley, China’s new security law would deal a mighty blow to the freedoms and liberties that the people of Hong Kong have enjoyed for decades now. He stated that it is a permanent break from the one country, two systems principle that has governed that city since 1997.

The two measures were combined into one bill before getting the Senate's approval. 

The bill still needs to be passed in the House of Representatives before going to US President Donald Trump for his assent.

As per critics, China’s national security law on Hong Kong will overrule the city’s democratic freedom and restrict its autonomy.

China’s new national security law: All you need to know

China is introducing a new national security law for Hong Kong that has sparked protests in the semi-autonomous city.  The proposed law could override Hong Kong's legal processes, eroding to the city’s political freedom. According to China, the law is necessary to curb unrest and uphold mainland sovereignty.

The national security law will allow mainland Chinese officials to operate in Hong Kong for the first time and give Beijing the power to override local laws. The law will allow the mainland Chinese authorities to "exercise jurisdiction" over cases in Hong Kong under special circumstances. This means that certain crimes in Hong Kong could result in trials on the mainland.

The crimes would include secession, subversion against the central Chinese government, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.  China would be establishing a police unit under the law to oversee its implementation along with secret policing in the former British colony.

One country, two systems

Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. Hong Kong though is a part of China, it enjoys more liberties than any other Chinese city.

The city was a British territory till it was handed back to China in 1997. Under the handover agreement, the city was given special freedoms of press, speech, and assembly, protected for at least 50 years. 

Hong Kong was handed over under a governance model - "one country, two systems." Under this model, the city is allowed to have its own currency, judicial system, identity and culture, a freedom that is stark contrast to China's censorship and authoritarian rule in the mainland.

The people of Hong Kong have always feared about Chinese encroachment on their autonomy, and have pushed for greater democracy, which was one of the driving factors behind the massive 2019 protests and the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

Background 

China has been asking Hong Kong authorities to pass the national security law since 1997, when the former British colony was handed back to China. The Hong Kong authorities have attempted to pass the law before but faced fierce opposition from the Hong Kong public. 

On May 22, 2020, China decided to pass the law on its own and proposed a bill for Hong Kong at the National People's Congress (NPC), China's Parliament. Though Hong Kong has an independent legal system, a clause in its mini-constitution allows China to make law in the city.

Background

US President Donald Trump had stated last month that his administration will revise the State Department's travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect "increased danger of punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus".

There have been massive demonstrations in Hong Kong against China’s new national security law, which has prevented China from implementing it. The law has also been criticised by the international community. However, China has stated that the law will be enacted without delay.

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