The Chinese government slammed Washington lawmakers’ “sinister intentions to destroy” Hong Kong, claiming the city has no “so-called human rights and democracy issues” and that the U.S. is showing “a naked double standard.”
Beijing was reacting to legislation passed on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening expressing support for the pro-democracy protesters who have taken over Hong Kong’s streets in recent months.
Beijing voiced “strong indignation and resolute opposition” to the move by U.S. lawmakers, who it accused of having “sinister intentions to destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and to contain China’s development.”
On Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed legislation in support of the pro-democracy protesters.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Bill would assess annually whether the city was sufficiently autonomous from China to justify a special trade status with the U.S. A second measure, the Protect Hong Kong Bill, blocks the commercial export of military and crowd-control items such as teargas.
Finally, a nonbinding declaration was passed condemning Beijing’s “interference” in Hong Kong’s affairs, and supporting the right of the city's residents to protest.
“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,” Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi said.
In response, Beijing warned of unspecified "strong countermeasures."
“With regards to the incorrect decision by the U.S., China must take strong countermeasures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, safety, and developmental interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “If the relevant bill is ultimately passed into law, not only will it harm Chinese interests but it will damage China-U.S. relations and seriously damage the U.S.’ own interests.”
The bills, which had bipartisan support in the House, will need to pass the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump before becoming law. The Senate has yet to set a date for a vote.
More than four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests have plunged Hong Kong’s government into its worst political crisis since Britain handed the city-state back in 1997.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam attempted to give her annual state of the union address but was twice stopped by heckling pro-democracy protesters, before finally resorting to delivering the speech by video.
Opposition lawmakers have repeated their calls for Lam to stand down.
“Both her hands are soaked with blood,” said Legislative Councillor Tanya Chan. "We hope Carrie Lam withdraws and quits. She has no governance ability. She is not suitable to be chief executive.”
Cover: Protestors light their torches during a peaceful rally in central Hong Kong's business district, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. The protests that started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill have since snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing's interference in Hong Kong's autonomy that was granted when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)