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China Demands Trump Veto HK Bills      11/21 06:10

   BEIJING (AP) -- China on Thursday demanded President Donald Trump veto 
legislation aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong and renewed a threat 
to take "strong countermeasures" if the bills become law.

   Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Hong Kong Human Rights and 
Democracy Act undermined both China's interests and those of the U.S. in the 
semi-autonomous Chinese city.

   "We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it's 
too late, prevent this act from becoming law (and) immediately stop interfering 
in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs," Geng said at a daily news 
briefing.

   "If the U.S. continues to make the wrong moves, China will be taking strong 
countermeasures for sure," Geng said.

   Foreign Minister Wang Yi joined in the criticism, telling visiting former 
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen that the legislation constituted an act of 
interference in China's internal affairs and ignored violent acts committed by 
protesters.

   "This bill sends the wrong signal to those violent criminals and its 
substance seeks to throw Hong Kong into chaos or even to destroy Hong Kong 
outright," Wang said.

   The human rights 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 House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the bills Wednesday, a 
day after the Senate passed them on voice votes. The bills now go to the White 
House for Trump's signature, and the White House signaled that he would sign 
the measure.

   Hong Kong held on to its advantageous trading status with the U.S. upon its 
handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997, in recognition of Beijing's 
pledge to allow it to retain its own laws, independent judiciary and civil and 
economic freedoms.

   That independent status has come into question amid moves by Beijing to 
gradually strengthen its political control over the territory, helping spark 
months of increasingly violent protests.

   This week, China's legislature argued it had the sole right to interpret the 
validity of Hong Kong's laws after the territory's court struck down an order 
banning the wearing of masks at protests. Legal scholars described that as a 
power grab violating the governing framework known as "one country, two 
systems."

   With Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government refusing to enter into dialogue 
or make concessions, the territory's police force has been given broad powers 
to quell the protests. That has brought numerous complaints of excessive use of 
force and the abuse of detainees, along with a near-complete lack of 
accountability for officers.

   In a September report, Amnesty International documented numerous cases where 
protesters had to be hospitalized for treatment of injuries inflicted while 
being arrested.

   "Time and again, police officers meted out violence prior to and during 
arrests, even when the individual had been restrained or detained. The use of 
force was therefore clearly excessive, violating international human rights 
law," said Nicholas Bequelin, the group's regional direct for East and South 
East Asia.

   Police spokesmen deny using excessive force, even in cases where officers 
are videotaped kicking and beating protesters who have already been immobilized.


(KR)

 
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