Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been lauding President Donald Trump after he signed new legislation formalizing the strongest international support of the ongoing anti-government protests to date.
Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Wednesday, after the legislation sailed through Congress with broad bipartisan support.
The act will allow the U.S. to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in the restive territory. It will also mandate an annual State Department review of Hong Kong's special autonomous status, which gives the territory beneficial trade treatment.
The bill is the culmination of a months-long effort by Hong Kong activists and lawmakers to push a harder U.S. line in support of the unrest in Hong Kong, now nearing its sixth month.
Many Western nations have condemned the intransigent response of the Hong Kong government and its Beijing backers, but the U.S. bill is the most significant international challenge to Beijing.
Trump signed the legislation despite repeated Chinese warnings that the international community should not interfere in Hong Kong, casting the months-long stand-off as a domestic issue.
Indeed, Beijing was quick to denounce the full passage of the bill, branding the legislation "full of prejudice and arrogance" and suggesting the "U.S. plot"—as it has framed the unrest—is "doomed to fail."
But Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—buoyed by their successes in last weekend's local elections—celebrated the success of the legislation and called for other nations to join the U.S. in formalizing support for the movement.
Joshua Wong, who came to prominence during the 2014 Umbrella Movement and was jailed for his role in the pro-democracy protests, has met key U.S. lawmakers over the past six months seeking to build support for the Hong Kong activists in Washington.
Wong said Wednesday he was "pleased" with the passage of the bill, nothing the "remarkable achievement would not be possible without the persistence and sacrifice of HK people."
Wong added that the legislation "signifies fundamental change of US's China policy and a new stage of the US-HK relation," vowing to "continue our efforts in other countries to encourage similar legislative efforts and sanctions mechanism."
Wong is a co-founder of the pro-democracy Demosisto organization. Another co-founder—Nathan Law—said he hoped Trump signing the bill would prompt "a wave of anti-authoritarianism in the global front" while also supporting the democratic goals of the Hong Kong protesters. "We need more countries to act with us," he added.
The Washington, D.C.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council said Wednesday was "a historic day for US-Hong Kong relations," representing "a new era and phase to Hong Kongers' ongoing struggle and fight to preserve their autonomy and freedoms and achieve democracy and universal suffrage."
The organization added that the U.S. is "stepping up to its moral and political obligations she made to Hong Kongers back in 1984 and 1992," referring to past legislation supporting the territory's special autonomous categorization.
"These new policies clearly make Hong Kong the global frontline to combat China's authoritarian regime, and we hope that other nations will follow suit," the HKDC added.