US Congress | Senators push for quick vote despite China threat

Senators from both parties are keeping up pressure for a swift vote on legislation to show support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by requiring annual reviews of whether the city is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to justify its special trading status with the U.S.

Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and a sponsor of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, said Tuesday he wants a vote this week.

“I hope the Senate takes it up soon and that we pass it into law,” Cruz said on Fox Business News. “It’s powerful to stand with the protesters in Hong Kong and say that the American people support you and support freedom.”

The House on Oct. 15 passed a slightly different measure that would have to be reconciled with the Senate bill. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, the Senate bill’s lead Republican sponsor, has previously said he expected a vote this week or “early the following week.”

China threatened unspecified “strong countermeasures” if Congress enacts the House legislation, which would allow sanctions against officials deemed responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s “fundamental freedoms and autonomy.”

Hong Kong is becoming a police state, GOP Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who recently traveled to the city, said on Fox News.

“We have to continue to keep the pressure up; we’re not going to watch Hong Kong get steamrolled,” Hawley said. “Next it will be Taiwan.”

Senator Rick Scott, who visited Hong Kong with Hawley and Cruz, made similar comments in a CNBC interview Tuesday when asked what advice he’d give President Donald Trump on dealing with China.

“There’s no human rights over there,” Scott said, adding that China wants to take human rights away from Hong Kong. “The American president needs to stand up for what we believe in this country,” he said.

Scott, who has previously expressed doubts about the odds of China complying with any trade agreement, said that while “hope springs eternal” he still doesn’t believe there will be a deal. MDT/Bloomberg

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