May 21, 2020

Van Hollen, Toomey Introduce Sanctions Bill to Defend Hong Kong’s Autonomy

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have introduced bipartisan legislation to defend Hong Kong’s autonomy against increasingly brazen interference from the Chinese Community Party.

READ: China Signals Plan to Take Full Control of Hong Kong, Realigning City’s Status

The Van Hollen/Toomey measure would impose mandatory sanctions on entities that violate China’s obligations to Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. The legislation would also impose mandatory secondary sanctions on banks that do business with the entities in violation of the Basic Law. 

“Last year, millions of people in Hong Kong took to the streets to demand democratic freedoms,” said Senator Van Hollen. “Despite China’s brutal crackdown, and repeated attempts to erode Hong Kong’s political liberties, these protests have persisted. Today, China went a step further, imposing new laws by fiat to criminalize political dissent. This bipartisan legislation will impose serious penalties on those working to strip Hong Kong of its autonomy. I urge the Senate to take up this bill immediately – it’s clear we have no time to waste.” 

“The communist regime in Beijing would like nothing more than to extinguish the autonomy of Hong Kong and the rights of its people,” said Senator Toomey. “In many ways, Hong Kong is the canary in the coal mine for Asia. Beijing’s growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China’s shadow. This bipartisan legislation will impose strict sanctions on those who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or contribute to the erosion of basic freedoms and rights enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong.”


Under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, China’s obligations to Hong Kong include, but are not limited to, guaranteeing:

  • Hong Kong’s “high degree of autonomy,” except in foreign and defense affairs;
  • That Hong Kong has an independent judiciary;
  • Freedom of speech, press, and assembly in Hong Kong; and
  • That the Chief Executive and Legislative Council of Hong Kong be selected by “universal suffrage”

Senators Toomey and Van Hollen’s Hong Kong Autonomy Act would impose sanctions on:

  • Persons or entities that materially contribute to the contravention of China’s obligations
    a.   Examples may include a police unit cracking down on Hong Kong protestors or Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for imposing a “national security” law on Hong Kong
  • Banks that conduct “significant transactions” with persons or entities described above

The legislation also expresses support for allowing Hongkongers, in a time of crisis, to become eligible to obtain lawful entry into the United States if they are facing persecution or violence from Beijing.