Protesters react as police fire tear gas while they attempt to march towards Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov. 18. Dozens of protesters escaped a two-day police siege at the campus by shimmying down a rope from a bridge to awaiting motorbikes following a renewed warning by Beijing of a possible intervention to end the crisis. (Photo: AFP)
The United States has expeditiously passed a bill on democracy and rights in Hong Kong, which rights activists say shows the international concern over the territory's future.The US Senate passed the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and Democracy on Nov. 20 after the procedure on its voting was speeded up last week.The US accelerated the process after media reported violent clashes between pro-democracy protesters and police on several university campuses.The bill requires the US to annually review the special treatment it gives to this former British colony in trade and commerce.The US treats Hong Kong differently from China in trade and diplomacy as the territory remains semi-autonomous, having its own legal and political systems.
The speedy US move shows the international concern over Hong Kong's future as a free territory, said Tam Man-kei, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong."The speeding up of the bill is a response from the international community to the past week’s police action in Hong Kong Polytechnic University," Tam said.The bill empowers the US to impose sanctions and travel restrictions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out arbitrary detention, torture or forced confession of any individual in Hong Kong.The sanctions can also be imposed for violation of internationally recognized human rights in the territory.The protests began in June against a move to amend the Hong Kong extradition bill. The move was projected as an example of the Chinese government increasingly clipping the democratic rights of Hong Kong people.Over the past five months, the mostly weekend protests have turned into a pitched battle between police and young protesters, leaving several injured and at least one person dead."The police must stop using excessive force against demonstrators to stop the revenge mentality. The government also must respond to protesters' demands rather than using police to maintain order and to solve political problems," Tam said.Republican Senator Marco Antonio Rubio, who pushed the bill of rights for Hong Kong, said the world is concerned about Hong Kong. China is trying to turn Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" into "one country, one system."He said the bill was an essential step for Chinese and Hong Kong officials to take responsibility for the violation of Hong Kong's autonomy and human rights.A Hong Kong government spokesman said the bill was "neither necessary nor justified but will also damage the relationship and interests of Hong Kong and the United States."Hong Kong enjoys a unique status among the international community, "and its economic and trade status is equal to that of other members of the World Trade Organization," the spokesman said.Any unilateral change of the US economic and trade policy toward Hong Kong will harm the bilateral relationship.The protest in Hong Kong is an internal affair and foreign governments should not interfere in it in any form, he said.
Support UCA News...
As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.
That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.
Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.
UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.
We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...