Senators Propose Sanctions on Chinese Officials Over Hong Kong
Riot police wearing protective masks attempt to disperse crowds inside Harbour City shopping mall, during a protest in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, May 10, 2020. (Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

Senators Propose Sanctions on Chinese Officials Over Hong Kong

(Bloomberg) -- Two U.S. senators are proposing legislation to punish Chinese entities involved in enforcing proposed new security laws in Hong Kong and penalize banks that do business with those entities, adding to a growing list of initiatives in Congress aimed at China’s government.

The bill is being introduced in Congress as China announced plans to write a new national security law into Hong Kong’s charter, a move critics say is aimed at reining in dissent in the city.

Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Republican Pat Toomey acted in response to what they said was the Chinese Communist Party’s “brazen interference” in Hong Kong’s autonomy. The proposal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“The communist regime in Beijing would like nothing more than to extinguish the autonomy of Hong Kong and the rights of its people,” Toomey, of Pennsylvania, said in a statement Thursday. “Beijing’s growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China’s shadow.”

Separately, President Donald Trump warned Thursday that the U.S. would respond to any move to curtail protests and democratic movements in Hong Kong.

The relationship between the world’s two biggest economies has been increasingly strained amid U.S. criticism of China on trade, its treatment of ethnic and religious minorities and, more recently, how it handled the initial outbreak of the coronavirus that’s killed hundreds of thousands of deaths and harmed economies around the world.

The Hong Kong legislation is the latest legislative salvo against China.

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed a separate proposal to delist Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges if they fail to comply with U.S. financial disclosure standards.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the House would review that measure and noted that it had the overwhelming support of both parties in the Senate. A House version has been introduced by Brad Sherman, a California Democrat.

The Senate also passed in recent weeks a bill that would sanction Chinese officials over the oppression of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group in the Xinjiang region of China. The House is also reviewing that legislation.

Van Hollen said on Bloomberg TV that the bill regarding civil liberties in Hong Kong “is intended to send a clear message to China that it should not violate the agreements that it’s reached with respect to Hong Kong.”

Van Hollen said he and Toomey had been working on the legislation for some time and that China’s move “has added new urgency to passing this legislation.”

“There is a bipartisan sense that it’s important to stand up to authoritarian moves,” Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen and another Republican colleague, Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, are sponsoring the proposal on delisting of Chinese companies that can’t show they aren’t controlled by the government.

“All companies, foreign and domestic, that are trading on U.S. exchanges should have to comply with U.S. transparency laws with respect to accounting,” Van Hollen said. “This is a long overdue measure.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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