Senators from both sides will enact legislation to punish Chinese officials and entities for a series of new national security laws that threaten Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China.
Senators Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) And Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), Who helped support the legislation, told the Wall Street Journal they had drafted a more general bill to defend Hong Kong’s autonomy, but that the imposition of new laws by the Chinese government made the issue more urgent. China plans to use the new legislation to quell pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which have been largely curtailed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We would impose sanctions on individuals who are complicit in China’s illegal conduct in Hong Kong,” Van Hollen told the log. Banks doing business with Chinese entities involved in the crackdown would also be disadvantaged.
Hong Kong, a British protectorate for most of the past century, was incorporated into China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” scheme that allowed for a degree of autonomy and significantly greater freedoms for the city’s residents. In 2019, China attempted to implement a law that would allow the extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China, a provision that many Hong Kong residents believed violated the city’s autonomy.
Pro-democracy protests, many of which turned violent, stalled the city for most of the year, and in November a pro-democracy majority defeated Beijing supporters in the Hong Kong parliamentary elections.
China’s new national security laws are “a complete and utter surprise, and I think it means the end of one country, two systems,” said Dennis Kwok, Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator. Washington Post on Thursday. “This is the most devastating thing that has happened to Hong Kong since the transfer.”