Top US Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren backs Hong Kong pro-democracy bill

Robert Delaney

US Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the leading Democratic contenders for the White House, backed controversial legislation aimed at supporting democracy in Hong Kong – a bill that may go to a vote in Congress’s upper chamber as early as next week.

Warren, who represents Massachusetts, signed onto the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 as a cosponsor on Wednesday, along with Rick Scott, a Republican representing Florida, and Tennessee Republican Marsha Blackburn.

The three additions brought the number of cosponsors to 28, more than a quarter of the chamber.

Asked by reporters on Thursday about the timing for a vote on the bill, its sponsor, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, said: “We’re hoping sometime next week or early the following week.”

The legislation, which was passed by the House of Representatives with no objections earlier this week, would place economic sanctions on individuals deemed to have violated the terms of Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China.

The House version was cosponsored by one-fifth of its 438 members. If passed by the Senate, the two versions will be consolidated into one and sent to President Donald Trump for approval.

Warren, who is the front runner in some of the most recent US election polls, has been outspoken in defending the pro-democracy movement that has sparked mass demonstrations, some violent, in Hong Kong.

The Massachusetts senator is ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the 2020 election’s first voting will be held, according to polling by RealClear Politics.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is closest to Warren among Democratic senators running for president, is not a cosponsor of the bill.

“Despite Beijing’s promise to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy, in recent years, it has eroded key democratic institutions, leading hundreds of thousands of citizens to take to the streets to protest peacefully,” Warren said in an October 3 opinion piece published by Foreign Policy magazine.

“In return, the government of Hong Kong has responded with repression and increasing violence.”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam ‘puzzled’ by demands to disband police

“As the country did following Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen, the United States should protect Hong Kong residents involved in protests and who travel to the United States until they are confident that they will not be punished for exercising the right to peaceful assembly,” Warren wrote, referring to the Chinese government’s military offensive against pro-democracy demonstrators on June 4, 1989.

Immediately after the crackdown, the US government halted further arms sales and cancelled planned military exchanges with China. Later that month, then-secretary of state James Baker suspended high-level contacts with the Chinese.

China’s National People’s Congress, its foreign ministry, Beijing’s top office on Hong Kong policy and state media all condemned the bill following the US House vote on Tuesday, with some of them vowing “countermeasures” against American interests in Hong Kong.

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