The popular uprising in Hong Kong has exploded into a political crisis for China. On Tuesday, the United States Senate unanimously passed a legislation aimed at protecting human rights in the former British colony. A version of this bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, has the House of Representatives’ approval, but a final draft okayed by both chambers will need US President Donald Trump’s signature to become a law. If it does, it will require the US to determine, for potential sanctions, whether Beijing is adhering to its 1997 promise of preserving Hong Kong’s special status.

Although such a US law would do little for Hong Kong residents, it is sure to worsen US-China ties. Beijing will probably dismiss it as an intrusion in its internal matters, but Washington could cite the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which carved out a distinct identity for the territory as an autonomous state for the purposes of trade and international economic relations. Questions of sovereignty apart, common folk treated badly anywhere attracts global censure today. Trump, though, seems more bothered about China’s exports than its oppression.

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