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Trump signs Hong Kong bill that will strain relations with China
[WASHINGTON] US President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that expresses US support for Hong Kong protesters, a move that will strain relations with China and further complicate the President's effort to wind down his trade war with Beijing.
Mr Trump signed the legislation on Wednesday, the White House said in a statement.
The legislation, S 1838, requires annual reviews of Hong Kong's special trade status under American law - and sanctions against any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city's autonomy.
The House cleared the bill 417-1 on Nov 20 after the Senate passed it without opposition, veto-proof majorities that left Mr Trump with little choice but to acquiesce.
While many members of Congress in both parties have voiced strong support for protesters demanding more autonomy for the city, Mr Trump has stayed largely silent, even as the demonstrations have been met by rising police violence.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, called on the President to speak out, saying last week that "the world should hear from him directly that the United States stands with" the protesters.
China's Foreign Ministry had urged Mr Trump to prevent the legislation from becoming law, warning the Americans not to underestimate China's determination to defend its "sovereignty, security and development interests".
"If the US insists on going down this wrong path, China will take strong countermeasures," ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a briefing on Thursday in Beijing.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned the US ambassador, Terry Branstad, on Monday to express "strong opposition" to what the country's government considers American interference in the protests, including the legislation, according to a statement.
The new US law comes just as Washington and Beijing have shown signs of working toward what the White House calls a "phase-one" deal to ease the trade war.
Mr Trump would like the agreement finished in order to ease economic uncertainty for his re-election campaign in 2020, and has floated the possibility of signing the deal in a farm state as an acknowledgement of the constituency that's borne the brunt of retaliatory Chinese tariffs.
US and Chinese trade negotiators will continue communicating closely and work toward a phase-one deal, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday.
Before a speech at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Beijing last week, China's Vice-Premier Liu He - the country's chief trade negotiator - said that he was "cautiously optimistic" about reaching the phase one accord, according to people who attended a dinner and asked not to be identified.