US House approves Hong Kong bills in boost for protesters, Victory underway

House unites to approve Hong Kong measures, which still require Senate backing, drawing swift condemnation from China.

The House of Representatives in the United States on Tuesday passed legislation to show support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, drawing swift condemnation from China, which said its relationship with the US would be damaged if the bills were to become law.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which protesters had urged legislators to pass, would end the Chinese city's special trading status with the US unless the State Department certified annually that the authorities were respecting human rights and the rule of law.

A second measure, the Protect Hong Kong Act, would bar commercial exports of military and crowd-control items such as teargas.

The third is a non-binding resolution recognising Hong Kong's relationship to the US, condemning Beijing's "interference" in its affairs, and supporting the right of the city's residents to protest.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was "resolutely opposed" to the bills and urged US legislators to stop interfering in Hong Kong. It has accused "external forces" of heightening months of unrest in the semi-autonomous city.

Hong Kong democracy activists including Joshua Wong (left) had urged the US Congress to pass the measures and gave testimony before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China last month. [AFP]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bills important reminders of US support for human rights in the face of significant commercial interests in China.

"If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, then we lose all moral authority to speak out on behalf of human rights any place in the world," she said.

Pelosi said the bravery of young protesters in Hong Kong stood in contrast to "the cowardly government that refuses to respect the rule of law" and the "one country, two systems" policy that was supposed to ensure a smooth political transition after Britain returned the former colony to China in 1997.

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