The Hong Kong Autonomy Law will impose sanctions on businesses and individuals who help China limit Hong Kong’s autonomy. It was approved with unanimous approval Thursday, and will now go to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The Senate initially passed a bill last week and the House of Representatives approved Wednesday with a few technical changes, according to Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania, and Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic Democrat, co-author of the law. Therefore the Senate needs to approve a slightly changed version before sending it to Trump.
The move by lawmakers was carried out when China had issued a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that lent Beijing a new sweep of power over a semi-autonomous city.
Critics say the law, which was not revealed to the public until after it was enacted, marked the erosion of the city’s valuable civic and political freedom; Chinese and local governments think it is necessary to curb unrest and uphold land sovereignty.
This law has been widely criticized by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights groups and politicians around the world, with many saying it will strengthen Beijing’s direct control over a semi-autonomous city.
Many are concerned that it could be used to target political dissidents, activists, human rights lawyers and journalists amid the ongoing central government crackdown on civil society under Chinese President Xi Jinping.