U.S. senators seek quick passage of Hong Kong rights bill

FILE PHOTO: A protester walks at the occupied campus of the Chinese University in Hong Kong, China, November 13, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior U.S. senators began a process on Thursday for the U.S. Senate to quickly pass legislation that would place Hong Kong’s special treatment by the United States under extra scrutiny, a sign of support for pro-democracy protesters in the Chinese-ruled city.

U.S. Senators Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio, a senior member of the panel, want to pass the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” by unanimous voice vote.

The legislation would require the secretary of state to certify at least once a year that Hong Kong still retains enough autonomy to warrant the special U.S. trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial center.

It also would provide sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

The lawmakes’ announcement came amid a surge in violence surrounding months of protests in Hong Kong. On Thursday, pro-democracy protesters paralyzed parts of the city for a fourth successive day.

If it does pass the Senate, the measure would not be sent immediately to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto. Lawmakers would first have to iron out differences between the Senate’s legislation and a bill that passed the House of Representatives last month.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis