China Vows to Retaliate Against U.S. for Supporting Hong Kong Human Rights, Condemns Congress' 'Shocking Hypocrisy'

China has vowed to retaliate against the U.S. after the House of Representatives approved the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 on Tuesday.

The legislation, which has broad bipartisan support, would allow the U.S. to sanction individuals in China and Hong Kong believed to be undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong and the human rights of its residents.

It would also require the State Department to review the special U.S.-Hong Kong trading status annually to ensure authorities are respecting human rights and the rule of law.

The bill passed the House by voice vote, the BBC reported, meaning support was significant enough not to require individual representatives to record their votes. The House also passed the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, which would halt U.S. exports of non-lethal crowd control weapons including tear gas and rubber bullets.

China has been vehemently opposed to the human rights legislation. Beijing argues that the bill represents unacceptable foreign interference in a domestic matter. And on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang promised that Beijing would respond to the vote.

"We express strong indignation on, and firm opposition to, the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act," Geng said, according to a transcript on the foreign ministry website.

"The current situation in Hong Kong has nothing to do with human rights or democracy," he argued. "The real issue is to promptly end violence, restore order and safeguard the rule of law."

Enormous protests have crippled the city every weekend since June. The movement began as a protest against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed the Hong Kong government to extradite fugitives to face trial in mainland China.

Opponents argued this would undermine the "one country, two systems" agreement governing the territory's autonomy, and allow Beijing to persecute political dissidents in Hong Kong.

Government intransigence and violent police tactics inflamed anti-government frustration. The protest movement has since grown more radical, now demanding five concessions from the government including the full withdrawal of the extradition bill.

Though Chief Executive Carrie Lam eventually binned the legislation, the government has thus far resisted protester demands for an independent investigation into police conduct, a full amnesty for all those arrested, retraction of the term "rioters" to describe the activists, and full suffrage for the territory.

Hong Kong, human rights, act, Congress, China
A demonstrator holds an umbrella during a rally in support of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on October 14, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images/Getty

The Hong Kong and Chinese governments have characterized the activists as rioters and terrorists. Geng said Wednesday that U.S. lawmakers were "disregarding and distorting facts by referring to serious criminal offenses such as arson, smashing of shops and violence against police officers as an issue of human rights and democracy."

Geng accused the House of "a stark double standard" which "fully exposes the shocking hypocrisy of some in the U.S. on human rights and democracy and their malicious intention to undermine Hong Kong's prosperity and stability to contain China's development."

"China will definitely take strong countermeasures in response to the wrong decisions by the U.S. side to defend its sovereignty, security and development interests," he added.

"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs that brook no foreign interference," Geng reiterated. "We urge the US side to come to a clear assessment of the situation, immediately stop pushing the Hong Kong-related act and stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs before falling off the edge of the cliff."

But Hong Kong pro-democracy activists expressed their joy at the legislation's passage. The U.S.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council applauded lawmakers, and the group's managing director Samuel Chu called it "the strongest statement made to-date in support of the people of Hong Kong."

"The 'People's House' has spoken—China will not bully or silence the U.S. when it comes to Hong Kong's present and future," Chu added. "No amount of profits or economic interests should stand in the way to basic human rights and freedom."

Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent Hong Kong activists and a co-founder of the pro-democracy Demosisto organization, also thanked House leadership for their support, noting that the two bills were passed within 30 minutes of each other.