The House of Representatives has approved sanctions on banks doing business with Chinese officials behind the new national security law cracking down on Hong Kong protesters.
Speaking before the measure was passed Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decried Beijing’s efforts to curb Hong Kong’s freedoms.
“Beijing’s so-called ‘national security’ law, passed on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from the UK to China, signals the death of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” the California Democrat said.
“If we do not speak out for human rights and religious freedom in China, we lose all moral authority to speak out any place,” the House speaker continued.
The measure, authored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), was passed by unanimous consent, a rule that allows legislation in Congress to pass as long as no present members voice objections.
Last week, a similar but not identical piece of legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent. Changes made in the House will require the bill to return to the Senate for another vote, which is expected on Thursday.
“No one should face life in prison for demonstrating. Now, Hong Kongers are fleeing Hong Kong out of fear for their safety, and we should support their right to do so. We need to impose consequences on the Chinese government for its actions towards #HongKong,” Sherman said in a tweet after the bill’s passage.
In a joint statement released Wednesday evening, Toomey and Van Hollen celebrated the action by the House.
“We are pleased the House moved forward with our legislation, and we intend to secure Senate concurrence, as soon as tomorrow. America must stand with the people of Hong Kong.”
The law has been slammed by many as the Chinese Communist Party’s boldest effort to date to crack down on the territory, which has maintained a semi-autonomous system separate from that of mainland China.
Last year, pro-democracy protests took over Hong Kong for nearly a year and left the former British colony in a tense power struggle with the CCP.
This latest piece of legislation was passed amid warnings and criticism both in Hong Kong and internationally that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the Asian financial hub.
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