Trump signs bills in support of Hong Kong protesters

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed two bills aimed at supporting human rights and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Trump signed the bills, which were approved by near unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping.

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”

Congress approved the bills last week following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Before Wednesday’s signing announcement, Trump would only commit to giving the measures a “hard look.”

China had threatened to take unspecified, “strong countermeasures” if the bills were signed into law.

18 PHOTOS
Peaceful protests turn violent in Hong Kong
See Gallery
Peaceful protests turn violent in Hong Kong
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JUNE 12: A Protester throws back the tear gas during a protest against a proposed extradition law on June 12, 2019 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Large crowds of protesters gathered in central Hong Kong as the city braced for another mass rally in a show of strength against the government over a divisive plan to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JUNE 12: A group of riot police push the crowd back during a protest against a proposed extradition law on June 12, 2019 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Large crowds of protesters gathered in central Hong Kong as the city braced for another mass rally in a show of strength against the government over a divisive plan to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG - JUNE 12: A protester gestures during a protest against a proposed extradition law on June 12, 2019 in Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Large crowds of protesters gathered in central Hong Kong as the city braced for another mass rally in a show of strength against the government over a divisive plan to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2019/06/12: Thousands of protesters occupied the roads near the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong to demand to government to withdraw extradition bill. The Hong Kong government has refused to withdraw or delay putting forward the bill after tens of thousands of people marched against it on Sunday. (Photo by Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2019/06/12: Thousands of protesters occupied the roads near the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong to demand to government to withdraw extradition bill. The Hong Kong government has refused to withdraw or delay putting forward the bill after tens of thousands of people marched against it on Sunday. (Photo by Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Protesters face off with police during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2019/06/12: A group of protester seen using umbrellas to defend themselves from the pepper spray and tear has from the police. Thousands of protesters occupied the roads near the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong to demand to government to withdraw extradition bill. The Hong Kong government has refused to withdraw or delay putting forward the bill after tens of thousands of people marched against it on Sunday. (Photo by Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - 2019/06/12: A group of riot police took back a section of the road near the legislative council complex after clearing the protesters out by using tear gas. Thousands of protesters occupied the roads near the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong to demand to government to withdraw extradition bill. The Hong Kong government has refused to withdraw or delay putting forward the bill after tens of thousands of people marched against it on Sunday. (Photo by Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Police fire tear gas at protesters during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman shouts at protesters during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters occupy a road as they attend a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters run after police fired tear gas during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Police fire non-lethal projectiles during violent clashes against protesters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester throws back a tear gas during clashes with police outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Protesters leave the area after police fired tear gas during a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester throws back a tear gas during clashes with police outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Violent clashes broke out in Hong Kong on June 12 as police tried to stop protesters storming the city's parliament, while tens of thousands of people blocked key arteries in a show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Protesters in masks and goggles chant slogans outside the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Hong Kong authorities delayed the second reading of a controversial bill allowing extradition to mainland China as tens of thousands of protesters blockaded government headquarters. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read PHILIP FONG/AFP/Getty Images)
Police rest on a street as protesters (not pictured) attend a rally against a controversial extradition law proposal outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong on June 12, 2019. - Tens of thousands of protesters paralysed central Hong Kong, blocking major roads in a defiant show of strength against government plans to allow extraditions to China. By late morning, with crowds continuing to swell, officials in the Legislative Council (Legco) said they would delay the second reading of the bill "to a later date". (Photo by DALE DE LA REY / AFP) (Photo credit should read DALE DE LA REY/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.

Another bill prohibits export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, stun guns and tasers.

The munitions bill was passed unanimously, while Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky was the sole House member to oppose the human rights bill.

Trump acknowledged last week that he was weighing the ramifications of signing the bill.

“Look, we have to stand with Hong Kong,” Trump said in an interview on “Fox & Friends.” He continued: “But I’m also standing with President Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy.”

Democratic and Republican lawmakers applauded the signing of the bills. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said it “finally sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Hong Kong: We are with you.”

Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the bills are “an important step forward in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its repression of fundamental human rights.”

Read Full Story