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China threatened to retaliate with “strong countermeasures” against the U.S. after House lawmakers passed several bills aimed at supporting the rights of Hong Kong protesters and condemning the Beijing government’s attempts to interfere with the pro-democracy movement.
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On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require an annual review of whether the city is sufficiently autonomous from China and sanction officials who are “responsible for undermining fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong.”
“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, then we lose all moral authority to speak out on behalf of human rights any place in the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
The three bills now head to the Senate, though it’s unclear when the chamber might vote on the package.
But the bills drew a swift rebuke from Beijing: Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said it demonstrated a “stark double standard” and warned the U.S. to “stop meddling…before falling off the edge of the cliff.”
“If the relevant act were to become law, it wouldn’t only harm China’s interests and China-U.S. relations, but would also seriously damage U.S. interests,” Geng said in a statement. “China will definitely take strong countermeasures in response to the wrong decisions by the U.S. side to defend its sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to China in 1997 under an agreement known as “one country, two systems,” which allowed the city to retain a “high-degree of autonomy” for 50 years. The agreement expires in 2047.
Concerns about overt Chinese influence in Hong Kong have heightened in recent months, as protests — which began this summer over a now-shelved extradition bill, but have since morphed into sweeping calls for reform — have grown increasingly violent.
Protests, now in their 19th straight week, descended into violence again on Wednesday, with reports that the leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, the group responsible for some of the largest peaceful protests so far, was attacked for the second time.
Demosisto, a separate pro-democracy organization, said in a tweet that Jimmy Shamm was smashed over the head with hammers. It’s unclear who attacked Sham. A police source told the South Morning China Post that he was bleeding from his head and arms when officers discovered him. An investigation is underway.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE