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Senate Unanimously Passes Hong Kong Autonomy Act

June 29, 2020

The United States Senate unanimously approved the bipartisan Hong Kong Autonomy Act, authored by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was introduced in response to increasingly brazen interference of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, would impose mandatory sanctions on entities that violate China's obligations to Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. The legislation would also impose mandatory secondary sanctions on banks that do business with the entities in violation of the Basic Law.

"Today, the Senate stood up to the communist regime in Beijing and stood with the people of Hong Kong," said Senator Toomey. "The mandatory sanctions established in this bill will punish those in China who seek to undermine Hong Kong's autonomy or erode the basic freedoms promised to Hongkongers. I very much appreciate the great work done by Senator Van Hollen in helping to get this bill passed and I hope the House will take it up and pass it in short order, so the president can sign it."

"Today the Senate took meaningful action to hold China and its proxies to account for their ongoing efforts to extinguish liberty and democracy in Hong Kong. This legislation sends a strong, bipartisan message that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong. We urge the Government of China to abandon their ongoing efforts to repress freedoms in Hong Kong. There will be a price to pay if they continue down that path. I appreciate Senator Toomey's partnership on this crucial legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the House to take it up without delay," said Senator Van Hollen.

You may watch Senator Toomey and Senator Van Hollen's remarks regarding passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act here.

Background:
Under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, China's obligations to Hong Kong include, but are not limited to, guaranteeing:
Hong Kong's "high degree of autonomy," except in foreign and defense affairs;

  • That Hong Kong has an independent judiciary;
  • Freedom of speech, press, and assembly in Hong Kong; and
  • That the Chief Executive and Legislative Council of Hong Kong be selected by "universal suffrage"

Senators Toomey and Van Hollen's Hong Kong Autonomy Act would impose sanctions on:

  • Persons or entities that materially contribute to the contravention of China's obligations
    • Examples may include a police unit cracking down on Hong Kong protestors or Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing a "national security" law on Hong Kong
  •  Banks that conduct "significant transactions" with persons or entities described above

The legislation also expresses support for allowing Hongkongers, in a time of crisis, to become eligible to obtain lawful entry into the United States if they are facing persecution or violence from Beijing.

The bill text can be found here.

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