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HONG KONG (ChurchMilitant.com) - The U.S. Congress has taken a stand in favor of Hong Kong's autonomy, as pro-democracy protests continue there.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law.
The bill's passage comes on the heel of clashes between police and protesters at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Student protesters, including many high schoolers, descended on the campus last week. Police forces surrounded the campus with a tight barrier.
In the ensuing siege, some protesters fended off the police with Molotov cocktails, homemade napalm bombs, bows and arrows and various improvised weapons. With food dwindling and trash accumulating, hundreds of protesters have either escaped or been arrested.
As of Wednesday evening local time, about 50 protesters were still holed up in the campus.
Some sources say that the passing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by the U.S. Congress this week was spurned by the latest clashes between police and protesters.
Broadly speaking, the bill modifies U.S. foreign policy toward Hong Kong, putting more emphasis on preserving Hong Kong's autonomy from mainland China.
Included in the bill is language about making sure the Hong Kong goverment supports "the rights of nonviolent protesters."
Representative Chris Smith, R-N.J., articulated from the House floor, "With the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights Act, the United States Congress is making it clear that beating, torturing and jailing democracy activists is absolutely wrong."
The bill requires the U.S. president to propose a strategy to Congress for protecting U.S. citizens arrested in Hong Kong from being shipped to mainland China for trial. It also requires the president to produce a list of government officials of Hong Kong and China responsible for human rights violations in connection to the protests.
Furthermore, the legislation states that politically motivated arrests cannot block Hong Kong students from obtaining green cards for the United States.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL.) reported, "So far, over 5,000 people have been arrested in Hong Kong. The youngest was 12 years of age; the oldest, 82."
That 12-year-old boy was arrested on his way to school the morning after he allegedly spray-painted slogans onto a police station and a subway station.
Rubio said of Beijing's response to the Hong Kong demonstrations, "This effort by China to exert control and remove autonomy continues unabated."
Hong Kong's government has voiced concern that Trump signing the bill into law "would send the wrong signal to violent protesters, which doesn't help in cooling the situation."
China's foreign ministry has decried the bill as well. A spokeperson said during a briefing on Thursday, "If the U.S. insists on going down this wrong path, China will take strong countermeasures."