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US Senate passes bill to support human rights in Hong Kong

This photo shows the U.S. Capitol Building. (Getty/Kyodo)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate on Tuesday easily approved a bill to support human rights in Hong Kong following months of often-violent unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by voice vote. It now goes to the House, which has already passed similar legislation.

The bill mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and require an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.

"The passage of this bill is an important step in holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong's eroding autonomy and human rights violations," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of nearly 50 co-sponsors of the measure.

China has opposed all criticism of the handling of the Hong Kong protests as unwarranted interference in its domestic affairs. The government promised unspecified countermeasures in response to the passage of the House legislation last month.

Mass protests in Hong Kong started in June over a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. Activists saw the legislation as part of a continuing erosion of rights and freedoms that Hong Kong was promised it could keep when Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997.

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