Senate passes sanctions bill targeting China over Hong Kong law
© Greg Nash

The Senate passed legislation on Thursday to slap sanctions on Chinese officials who restrict Hong Kong's autonomy.

The legislation, spearheaded by Sens. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenDemocrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Mid-Atlantic states sue EPA over Chesapeake Bay pollution Trump payroll-tax deferral for federal workers sparks backlash MORE (D-Md.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (R-Pa.), targets individuals and entities, as well as the banks they do business with, with sanctions if they encroach on Hong Kong's semi-independence. 

"What the government of China is doing in Hong Kong is unacceptable. They are taking away the rights of the people in Hong Kong. They are snuffing out the freedoms that exist there right now," Van Hollen said from the Senate floor. "They are moving forward in their process to take away the liberties of the people of Hong Kong. So time is of the essence." 

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The bill comes as a national security law being proposed in China has sparked concerns, both on Capitol Hill and internationally, that Beijing will expand its control over the city and that it will lead to restrictions on civil and political freedoms. 

The senators tried to pass the bill earlier this month but Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day On Paycheck Protection Program, streamlined forgiveness is key McConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package MORE (R-N.D.) objected. Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to pass a bill by unanimous consent but any one senator can also block it. 

Cramer told Politico that he did it at the request of the White House, even though he was a co-sponsor of the bill, because it had requested "technical" changes.

Toomey noted on Thursday that they had been working with the Treasury Department and had gotten "to the point where we are in agreement with this legislation." 

The bill would still need to be passed by the House before it could go to President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden leads Trump by 36 points nationally among Latinos: poll Trump dismisses climate change role in fires, says Newsom needs to manage forest better Jimmy Kimmel hits Trump for rallies while hosting Emmy Awards MORE, who has had a fraught relationship with China. Former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonDiplomacy with China is good for America The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep DOJ launches probe into Bolton book for possible classified information disclosures MORE claimed in his forthcoming book that Trump demurred from getting too involved on the Hong Kong protests, saying "we have human-rights problems too." 

In addition to the sanctions legislation, the Senate also passed a resolution by Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyRenewed focus on Trump's Supreme Court list after Ginsburg's death What Facebook's planned change to its terms of service means for the Section 230 debate Republican Senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal MORE (R-Mo.) condemning the proposed national security law. 

"This is, I think, a moment when we have been able to come together to speak with one voice and to send a clear message to Beijing that its attempts to steamroll and destroy the liberties of the people of Hong Kong will not go unnoticed and will not go unaddressed," he said.