Topline: President Donald Trump signed a bill on Wednesday that supports the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, after days of uncertainty surrounding his willingness to confront Beijing as he attempts to hammer out a trade deal with China.
- The bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, was passed almost unanimously by both houses of Congress last week.
- It would mandate that the president impose sanctions against people found to be violating human rights in Hong Kong and require the State Department to give Congress annual reports assessing whether China has encroached on Hong Kong’s autonomy or clamped down on civil liberties.
- In a statement announcing the signing, Trump said he signed the bill “out of respect for President Xi, China and the people of Hong Kong. They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all."
Crucial quote: “The U.S. now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” said Senator Marco Rubio, who introduced the bill. “Following last weekend’s historic elections in Hong Kong that included record turnout, this new law could not be more timely in showing strong U.S. support for Hong Kongers’ long-cherished freedoms. I look forward to continuing to work with the administration to implement this law.”
Key background: Until today it was unclear if Trump would sign the bill into law. The president has been relatively silent on Hong Kong as he negotiates a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping. In an interview on Fox and Friends last week, Trump said, “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” when asked if he would sign the bill.
News peg: Pro-democracy protests erupted in the semiautonomous region of Hong Kong months ago over a bill that would extradite those accused of committing a crime in Hong Kong to mainland China. The worry was the law would be used to crack down on political opponents. While the bill has been withdrawn from consideration, the protests have become a larger movement against Beijing’s control over the city, sometimes devolving into violent clashes between protesters and police officers.