U.S. Senator sees strong bipartisan support for Hong Kong sanctions bill

WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - A co-sponsor of a U.S. Senate bill to impose sanctions on Chinese officials and local banks for violations of Hong Kong’s independence said on Thursday there was interest from both Republicans and Democrats in passing the legislation quickly.

“There’s bipartisan interest in getting legislation like this done as soon as possible,” Republican Senator Pat Toomey told a Banking Committee hearing on U.S. options for Hong Kong.

Toomey and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, another banking committee member, offered their bill last month in response to China’s plans to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong after last year’s pro-democracy unrest.

The bill would freeze U.S. property assets of individuals responsible for implementing a proposed Hong Kong national-security law. Unlike past legislation, Chinese banks doing significant business with those officials would also be targeted, cutting them off from American counterparts and limiting access to U.S. dollar transactions.

The bill is several steps from becoming law, but it would

add to pressure on banks over China. Separately, in London, senior British politicians criticized HSBC and Standard Chartered on Thursday after the banks backed China’s national security law for Hong Kong, in conflict with the British government’s opposition to the proposed legislation.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, participated in the U.S. Senate hearing remotely via a link from Hong Kong. The hearing was held on the anniversary of China’s bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown.

Lee, who had led an annual commemoration in the city, told the U.S. senators he was ready to face any consequences of participating in candlelight rallies held on Thursday in defiance of Beijing’s ban on events marking the anniversary in Hong Kong this year. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)