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US Congress Approves Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Bills

The U.S. Congress approved two bills Thursday to support pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong after months of unrest in the semi-autonomous city.

The House overwhelmingly passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires an annual review of the favorable trade status the United States grants Hong Kong. The measure also authorizes U.S. sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses.

The second piece of legislation prohibits the export of certain non-lethal munitions to Hong Kong, including tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

The House passed both bills one day after the Senate approved them, sending them to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law.

US Senators Seek Quick Approval of Hong Kong Bill Measure would require the US secretary of state to certify at least annually that Hong Kong has enough autonomy to continue special US trading consideration

The White House has indicated Trump will sign the legislation.

Passage of the measures is widely viewed as a potential roadblock to a major trade deal between the U.S. and China.

"If America does not speak up for human rights in China because of commercial issues, we lose all more authority to speak about human rights anywhere in the world," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, told reporters shortly after the bills were approved.

Both measures received bipartisan support, despite the divisiveness that currently reigns on Capitol Hill.

"We don't stand here today as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans united in our strong support for the people of Hong Kong," said Congressman Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"This bill sends a clear message to China that there will be consequences for the ruthless and brutal actions in Hong Kong. We will not sit on the sidelines as the Chinese Communist Party enriches herself and oppresses her own people," McCaul declared.

For the past five months, protesters have taken to the streets of Hong Kong demanding more democracy and autonomy. The demonstrations have sometimes turned violent, stoking concerns that China will ratchet up its response to stop the civil disobedience.

China promised Hong Kong a "high degree of autonomy" for 50 years after it regained sovereignty over the city from Britain in 1997, but protesters contend that freedoms have since steadily eroded.

Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.

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