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Senate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters

Senate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters
© Greg Nash
The Senate easily passed legislation on Tuesday throwing support behind protesters in Hong Kong.

The bill, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, passed by unanimous consent on Tuesday evening, capping off weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations amid growing tensions in Hong Kong.

"With the situation in Hong Kong nearing a breaking point, this legislation will hopefully be a shot in the arm for the millions who have been patiently waiting for the United States to once again serve as a beacon of light and solidarity in their push to defend their basic rights and autonomy," said Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSanders drops bid to block Biden's Israel arms sale Sanders push to block arms sale to Israel doomed in Senate Schumer tactics on China bill reveal broader trade strategy MORE (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFive years after the Pulse nightclub massacre the fight for LGBTQ+ rights continues Rubio calls on Biden to 'forcefully' confront Iran over movement of war ships Bipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua MORE (R-Fla.) added that the bill would be an "important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy and human rights violations."

The legislation would impose sanctions on individuals who commit human rights violations in Hong Kong and block them from entering the United States. It would also require the State Department to provide an annual report to lawmakers on whether Hong Kong remains "sufficiently autonomous" from China.
 
Passage of the legislation follows rising violence in Hong Kong, including reports over the weekend that police officials have threatened to use lethal ammunition if protesters do not leave the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University amid a standoff. The Associated Press reported on Monday that riot police had trapped hundreds of protesters on the campus.
 
It also comes as the Trump administration is currently trying to close a trade deal with China, creating a potential point of tension for the White House. The bill still needs to pass the House. 
 
But support for the protesters in Hong Kong earned broad bipartisan support in the Senate, with nearly a dozen senators speaking on the floor ahead of the bill's passage. 
 
“Today’s vote sends a clear message that the United States will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong as they battle Beijing’s imperialism. The Chinese Communist Party’s quest for power across the region is a direct threat to America’s security and prosperity," said Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack MORE (R-Mo.). 
 
The Senate also passed legislation by consent on Tuesday, backed by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyChicago police officer arrested for role in Capitol riot Democrats reintroduce bill to create 'millionaires surtax' EPA chief emphasizes staffing, environmental justice in Appropriations testimony MORE (D-Ore.) and John CornynJohn CornynBipartisan lawmakers want Biden to take tougher action on Nicaragua Bipartisan Senate group announces infrastructure deal McConnell: 'Good chance' for infrastructure deal after talks unravel MORE (R-Texas), that would ban the United States from exporting certain munitions — including tear gas, pepper spray and handcuffs — to the Hong Kong police force.
 
"We believe in free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to protest, not state-sponsored oppression and violence. It is time to ban the export of U.S.-made police equipment to Hong Kong that is being used to abuse their human rights," Merkley said. 
 
Cornyn added that the bill "ensures that the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters are not subject to police brutality using products made in the United States."