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Senate passes Hong Kong rights bill — angering China

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The US Senate unanimously adopted legislation Tuesday supporting “human rights and democracy” in Hong Kong and threatening to revoke its special economic status, angering China which promptly summoned a US diplomat and threatened countermeasures.

The lawmakers also approved a measure that would ban the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment that have been used by security forces to suppress pro-democracy protests for nearly six months.

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Chinese vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu summoned the acting US charge d’affaires, William Klein, to lodge a “strong protest” and demand that the US prevent the bill from becoming law. US ambassador Terry Branstad was out of the country.

“Otherwise, the Chinese side will take strong measures to resolutely counter it, and the US side must bear all the consequences,” the statement said.

China had also reacted angrily when the US House of Representatives passed a similar measure last month.

The Senate’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would require the US president to annually review the favorable trade status that Washington grants to Hong Kong.

It also mandates sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials who commit human rights abuses including “extrajudicial rendition.”

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The Senate “sent a clear message to Hong Kongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: We hear you, we continue to stand with you and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio said.

Passage of the bill marks “an important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy and human rights violations.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s top Democrat, Robert Menendez, added that the legislation “makes it clear that the US will stand firmly and unambiguously with the legitimate aspirations of the people of Hong Kong.”

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Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the US purpose was to “support the extremists and violent elements against China that are trying to mess up Hong Kong… and realise their sinister plot to hinder China’s development by taking advantage of the Hong Kong issue.”

The pro-democracy movement was ignited in June when millions took to streets in opposition to a now-abandoned attempt to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to the mainland.

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The protests and resulting crackdowns have turned parts of Hong Kong into violent battlegrounds for weeks.

On Tuesday protesters occupying a university defied warnings to surrender, as skirmishes between police and demonstrators continued.

The Senate bill updates the original Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

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Senator Ben Cardin noted how Hong Kong has enjoyed a special economic status for years, one that relied on authorities “protecting democracy and human rights” in the territory.

“That was the commitment. And if they don’t comply with that, the special status should no longer be available,” Cardin said.

The House and Senate will now harmonize the texts into a single bill to pass Congress and go to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Carl Bernstein: There are 7-9 ‘wobbly’ Republicans who want witnesses but Mitch McConnell is trying to block them

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In a CNN panel discussion Wednesday, notorious Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein revealed that there are seven to nine Republican senators who are wavering after the compelling argument that the House has provided for the impeachment. The problem, however, is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is refusing to allow any break from the party line.

"I think this is a hugely damaging narrative that was laid out today, and that Mitch McConnell understands, and has understood for a while that this hugely damaging narrative was going to affect his members," said Bernstein. "And that his strategy -- I've talked to some Republicans about this -- #MidnightMitch is to wear out his own members so that they don't vote for more witnesses because there are six, seven, eight, nine wobbly Republicans."

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Republican Kevin McCarthy gets taken down by former top GOP colleague

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was attacked by a former Republican colleague who alleged McCarthy and his fellow members of Congress have allowed the House GOP to become the official shill for the White House.

In a profile for the New York Times, former Oversight Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) shamed the GOP House for the way that a once-respectable institution has fallen.

“Congress no longer operates as an independent branch of government, but as an appendage of the executive branch,” said Davis. “He is made for that role.”

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Former senator reveals to Maddow how one brave Democrat can reveal key document in impeachment trial

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Near the end of Wednesday's impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts announced that an agreement had been made to allow senators to read supplemental testimony from Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams.

The document will remain classified, despite claims that there is no classified material in the document, only evidence that is damning to the president.

"In terms of this document potentially being improperly classified, which is something that has been raised in writing by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and raised on the floor of the Senate tonight by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)," MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow noted. "Obviously, it was the vice president's office that said it was classified, they are getting publicly criticized for that. If it has been improperly classified and it should be something that the public can see, who adjudicates that?"

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