- Vote was an overwhelming 417-1 in favour of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
- Trump is expected to sign the legislation, Bloomberg reports
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the Senate's version of legislation that could pave the way for diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong, moving the bill to US President Donald Trump.
He is expected to sign the bill into law, Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
The House vote on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was 417-1, said Jeff Sagnip, press secretary for Representative Chris Smith, a sponsor of the bill.
The Senate passed the bill unanimously on Tuesday.
The legislation includes a requirement that the US government produce an annual report, certified by the secretary of state, that Hong Kong has retained enough autonomy from China to continue the city's distinct trading status.
That distinction protects Hong Kong from the punitive tariffs Washington placed on goods from China last year.
The #HongKongHumanRightsDemocracyAct, legislation I have championed for 5+ yrs, has cleared both chambers of Congress. #HongKong's freedom and autonomy is critical. We stand in solidarity with the people of #HongKong. Your cause is noble. Jiā yOu! https://t.co/8I1NueLykW
" Rep. Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith) November 20, 2019
The bill also calls for sanctions against any individuals or entities deemed to have violated freedoms guaranteed under Hong Kong's Basic Law and directs the State Department not to deny visas to those subjected to "politically motivated" arrests or detention in the city.
"The Congress is sending an unmistakable message to the world that the United States stands in solidarity with freedom-loving people of Hong Kong and that we fully support their fight for freedom," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor on Wednesday. "This has been a very unifying issue for us."
US lawmakers still have 150 other China-related bills to deliberate
Congress moved rapidly to finalise the bill, apparently motivated in recent days by a stand-off between police and university students in Hong Kong.
"The United States Congress is making it clear that beating, torturing and jailing democracy activists is wrong," Smith said before the House voted. "We stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong. There will be strong sanctions, other ramifications, for this crackdown and abuse of power."
A record number of more than 213 defendants charged in connection with the protests outside the besieged Polytechnic University on Monday were brought to six courts across Hong Kong on Wednesday.
The defendants were among 1,100 people arrested, surrendered or had their information recorded by police at the school and its surrounding areas on Monday, a day after officers besieged the campus, trapping hundreds of protesters, volunteers and first aid providers inside.
"Tragically, under President Xi Jinping, human rights abuse throughout China has significantly worsened including the pervasive use of torture, religious persecution, human trafficking and genocide against Muslim Uygurs," Smith said.
"Last month President Xi ominously warned of even more brutal violence to come in Hong Kong, threatening crushed bodies and shattered bones, and the Hong Kong government prefers bullets and batons over peaceful and political dialogue that would address the Hong Kong people's rightful grievances," he added.
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