US President Donald Trump on Friday indicated that he might veto the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act that was passed by both chambers of the Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – with near-unanimous support.
The US Congress on Wednesday passed the legislation that would force the Trump administration to assess whether political unrest in the vital global financial hub justify changing its unique treatment under the US law.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 that was passed would also require the Secretary of State to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong still retains enough autonomy to warrant the special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center.
The US treats semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has its own legal and political systems, differently from the Chinese mainland when it comes to trade and export controls.
The bill - if it becomes law - will demand greater scrutiny of the city''s special status.
"We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi (Jinping), he is a friend of mine. He's an incredible guy, but we have to stand … I’d like to see them work it out, okay,” Trump told Fox news during an interview.
"I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do, but we are also in the process of making one of the largest trade deals in history. And if we could do that, it would be great," he added.
The bill, which among other things prohibit the commercial export of certain munitions to the Communist party-controlled Hong Kong Police Force, would provide sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.
Following the legislation in the US Congress, China has also been demanding President Trump to veto it and renewed a threat to take "strong countermeasures" if they become law.
The opposition Democrats slammed Trump for his decision on the Hong Kong Act.
“Make no mistake: President Trump's words today do not reflect what the American people or the Congress think about President Xi's oppressive policies toward the people of Hong Kong,” Senate Democratic Leader Senator Chuck Schumer said.
“For a guy who promised to be tough on China, President Trump's reliable deference to President Xi is all the more bewildering.
Being tough on China when it comes to human rights will also help us win the battle on trade,” he said.