President Trump Signs Into Law Hong Kong Human Rights And Democracy Act

Author:Mr Duane Layton
Profession:Mayer Brown
  1. Trump Signs Act On the Eve of Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States

    On 19 November 2019, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 (the "HK Human Rights Act"), with appropriate amendments to the version passed by the U.S. House of Representative on 15 October 2019. The next day the U.S. House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the bill by a vote of 417 to 1.

    Facing a near-certain override in both chambers had he vetoed the legislation, President Trump surprised many when he signed the Act into law late Wednesday, 27 November 2019. The Act now becomes law in the United States with immediate effect.

  2. The Newly Passed HK Human Rights Act

    The revised key terms of the newly passed HK Human Rights Act are largely similar to the version passed on 15 October 2019 by the House,1 but the scope of U.S. monitoring over Hong Kong is less extensive.

    The remainder of this Alert discusses notable differences in specific provisions of the newly passed bill, as compared to the 15 October 2019 version.

    (a) Annual Certification by the Secretary of State

    Instead of adding new reporting requirements to the annual report required under section 301 of the Hong Kong Policy Act, the newly-passed bill will oblige the Secretary of State to submit an annual certification regarding the autonomy of Hong Kong. The yearly certification will no longer evaluate the "autonomous decision-making" of the Hong Kong Government, but only "indicates whether Hong Kong continues to warrant treatment under US law in the same manner as US laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997".

    On the one hand, the yearly certification will require the Secretary of State to evaluate in respect of an exhaustive list of areas:

    (i) commercial agreements; (ii) law enforcement cooperation, including extradition requests; (iii) sanctions enforcement; (iv) export controls, and any other agreements and forms of exchange involving dual use, critical, or other sensitive technologies; (v) any formal treaties or agreements between the United States and Hong Kong; (vi) other areas of bilateral cooperation that the Secretary determines to be relevant; (vii) decision-making within the Government of Hong Kong, including executive, legislative, and judicial structures, including—

    (I) freedom of assembly; (II) freedom of speech; (III) freedom of expression; and (IV) freedom of the press, including the Internet and social media;


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