A bill that could result in the closure of three Hong Kong trade offices in the United States has advanced in the Senate.
The measure, which aims to shut down the offices that "serve as another mouthpiece that the Chinese Communist Party uses to obscure its long record of human rights abuses against Hongkongers," is expected to go to the full Senate for a vote.
A similar version of the bill has also been introduced in the House.
The move comes after Hongkongers' rallies for civil rights in 2019 helped lead to the national security law that was imposed on Hong Kong in 2020.
Since then, US lawmakers have questioned whether the city is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing.
The bill's sponsor, Senator Tom Cotton, says the legislation is necessary to ensure that the US is not providing a platform for China's repression of Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump
in 2019, requires the US government to certify annually that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from China to justify its special trade status.
It also provides for sanctions on officials responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed Chief Executive, Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, has warned that the bill could undermine the city's special status under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which provides for Hong Kong's special trade status.
However, many Hongkongers believe that the bill does not go far enough in addressing the city's eroding autonomy.
The trade offices in question are the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in New York, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington, and the Hong Kong Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in San Francisco.
If the bill becomes law, it would require the offices to close within 90 days of the certification of the annual report.