NJ.com/Star Ledger ArticleTrump signs Hong Kong bill championed for years by Jersey congressman
Legislation to support Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters has been signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Trump acted Wednesday evening as he traveled to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, for the Thanksgiving holiday. The bill had passed Congress with just one dissenting vote.
“Beating, torturing and jailing of democracy activists is wrong and this historic legislation lets China know that respecting fundamental human rights is paramount,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., who led the fight in the House to pass the bill. “Under the new law, there will be strong sanctions, other ramifications, for the crackdown and abuse of power.”
The measure requires the U.S. secretary of state to certify annually whether Hong Kong should continue to receive special treatment under U.S. law; ensures that those arrested for participating in peaceful protests are not denied visas to enter the U.S.; requires sanctions against individuals responsible for forcing confessions, torturing protesters or committing other human rights violations; and calls for annual reports on whether Hong Kong is violating U.S. export control laws or United Nations sanctions.
Trump said in a statement that he signed the legislation “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.”
China protested the move on Thursday, threatening retaliation. Both countries are engaged in trade talks, and have imposed tariffs on each other’s exports.
The legislation was the culmination of a years-long effort by Smith, who had championed measures to push back against China’s efforts to erode the unique freedoms the country had guaranteed to Hong Kong, a former British territory now under Beijing’s rule.
The ongoing protests in Hong Kong gave new impetus for legislation that Smith had introduced in every Congress since 2014. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., joined Smith and several Hong Kong democracy activists at the Capitol in September, and congressional action followed shortly thereafter.
In the Senate, the bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its former chairman.
“The signing of this legislation into law ensures the United State finally sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Hong Kong: We are with you,” Menendez said.