On Wednesday, November 27, president Donald Trump signed two new bills into law. One of these bills was the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would make the United States' trade relations with Hong Kong conditional based on a review of Hong Kong's political status: the U.S. Department of State will conduct this review annually to determine whether the region has maintained a satisfactory level of autonomy. The second bill is the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, which prohibits the sale of U.S.-manufactured munitions, such as tear gas or rubber bullets, to the Hong Kong police.
The new bills have come into effect during ongoing protests and increasing violence in Hong Kong. The protests began in June in response to a proposed extradition bill which would allow suspected criminals to be sent to China for trial. While the extradition bill has since been withdrawn, the protests have escalated into large-scale pro-democracy protests, with protesters calling for five demands to be fulfilled. Many of these protesters have called upon Donald Trump and the United States for aid, and the American flag has often appeared in these protests.
These bills also come in the midst of a trade war between the United States and China and increasing tensions between the two countries. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the PROTECT Hong Kong Act have exacerbated these already existing tensions: China has condemned the bills, threatening potential consequences and claiming that President Trump has made a mistake by signing the bills into law. The Chinese government has also accused the United States of supporting "crazy violent criminals in carrying out vandalism, violence against innocent citizens, and disruption to the city's peace." Hong Kong's government has also criticized the bill as "meddling." How the signing of these bills will affect U.S.-China relations as well as the ongoing trade negotiations has yet to be seen, although many predict that they will have negative consequences in this respect.
The pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, on the other hand, have celebrated the passing of these bills as well as praising Donald Trump and the United States for their support of the protests. The signing of these bills came shortly after Hong Kong's recent election saw pro-democratic candidates win a large majority of the seats in the district council, which previously had a pro-Beijing majority, and a record high in voter turnout in electing these officials. Protesters hope to be able to maintain their momentum following what is considered to be two major victories on the pro-democracy side.