Forty of the 100 U.S. senators co-sponsored a resolution on Wednesday urging a strong U.S. government response to any Chinese efforts to clamp down on dissent in Hong Kong, including the use of sanctions and other tools.
The measure backed by the 40 Democrats and Republicans, and seen by Reuters before its release, comes as members of the U.S. Congress urge President Joe Biden
's administration to take a harder line in dealings with a rising China over a wide range of issues.
The resolution is non-binding, but is intended to convey a strong sense that lawmakers are closely watching events in China and will respond.
China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 outlawing acts including subversion with up to life in prison.
The law has been criticized by some Western governments as a tool to crush dissent, but the Chinese and Hong Kong governments say it has restored stability to the city after protracted pro-democracy protests in 2019.
"This resolution calls for the release of all wrongfully-accused defendants and encourages the U.S. Government and democratic partners to use all tools available to hold Beijing and the Hong Kong government accountable," said Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a statement.
"I look forward to securing this bipartisan resolution's swift passage as we continue our efforts to enhance every aspect of U.S. policy toward China," Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, the committee's chairman, said in a statement.
Among other things, the resolution condemns the security law, supports Hong Kongers "as they fight to exercise fundamental rights and freedoms" and condemns the imposition of "false and politically-motivated charges" and the jailing of Jimmy Lai, a jailed pro-democracy Hong Kong tycoon and founder of the now shut pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
Separately, members of the international legal team for Jimmy Lai and his son, Sebastien Lai, addressed a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to raise a concern about Lai's case.
The team highlighted the abuse of national security and counter-terrorism laws to criminalize journalism.
"I call on the United Nations experts and the international community, all those who treasure fundamental rights and freedoms, to call out Hong Kong's abuse of the law to persecute my father and his colleagues, and others for exercising their rights to free speech and a free press," Sebastian Lai said.
He added that it is time for the UN to condemn those actions and "do everything in its power" to secure his father's release.
The SAR government on Wednesday "strongly disapproved and firmly opposed" the acts of the legal team for Lai to "scandalise the Hong Kong National Security Law and the judicial system" of the city.
It added that the team abused the United Nations mechanisms by soliciting the Human Rights Council to interfere in the judicial proceedings of Lai's case concerning the NSL.
"The HKSAR government will never tolerate, and strongly deplores, any form of interference by anyone with the judicial proceedings of the HKSAR," the statement said.