A US bill that could leverage diplomatic and economic pressure to ensure the "sufficient autonomy" of Hong Kong moved quickly through the American legislative process and has now arrived on the desk of President Donald Trump.
Trump has the power to veto the legislation. But with the bill having almost no objections from lawmakers, he is expected to sign it into law. To give an idea, the Senate passed its version of the bill unanimously and the House pushed it through with a vote of 417-1.
The legislation has infuriated China, who view it as "meddling in the internal affairs of China." Beijing summoned a senior US diplomat to complain and the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily said the Hong Kong human rights act "isn't worth the paper it is written on."
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has described the passage through Congress as "madness" that will damage the countries' relationship.
The House and the Senate initially passed their own differing versions of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which calls for sanctions of individuals deemed to have violated freedoms guaranteed under Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law.
On Wednesday, the House approved the Senate's version of the legislation, which went further in objectives and tactics.
Both chambers have also unanimously passed a separate bill to ban the export to Hong Kong police of certain crowd-control munitions, such as tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
The bills are seen as a show of support from Washington to Hong Kong's protesters, who have been demanding government accountability and democratic reforms. Congress moved rapidly to finalize the bill, apparently motivated in recent days by a stand-off between police and university students in Hong Kong.
The protests, triggered by an unpopular extradition bill in June, have resulted in mass arrests and increasingly confrontational clashes between protesters and the police.
"#HongKong's freedom and autonomy is critical," Representative Chris Smith said in a tweet announcing the passage of the Hong Kong human rights act.
"We stand in solidarity with the people of #HongKong. Your cause is noble. Jiā yOu!"
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
Twitter users from Hong Kong flooded the comment section with messages of gratitude, although many have also pointed out that "Jiā yOu" " the Mandarin pinyin spelling for "add oil" " is not the best word to use when discussing the Hong Kong protesters.
"Gah Yau," one Hong Kong user corrected him. "This is the pronunciation in Cantonese."
Thank you Rep Smith.
This is the pronunciation in Cantonese.
Thank you for your support!#StandwithHK
" Oscar Yip (@osscar15b) November 20, 2019
Jia you is mandarin. In Hong Kong we say Ga Yau which is Cantonese
" HK needs your help #SOSHK (@andytaipei) November 21, 2019
Cantonese, the local Hong Kong language that is also widely spoken by people in the southern province of Guangdong, is a key component of the rising Hong Kong identity among the young generation.
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