WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed bipartisan legislation Wednesday aimed at supporting protesters in Hong Kong, ignoring warnings from Beijing that the measure would be met with "strong countermeasures" during a standoff over trade.
The bill, which won near unanimous approval in Congress, would require officials to annually re-consider special treatment Hong Kong receives from the U.S., including trade rules that have helped elevate the city to a global financial power.
Lawmakers in both parties have sought to signal support for the protesters, who for months have taken to the streets to demonstrate against what they view as China's encroachment on the city's autonomy. Pro-democracy candidates won major gains in Hong Kong elections over the weekend, a rebuke to Beijing's response to the protests.
"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement. "They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all."
But Trump also appeared to balk at portions of the bill, adding a signing statement cautioning that "certain provisions" of the act "would interfere with the exercise of the president's constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States." The White House did not respond to questions about which provisions were at issue.
Trump has been ambiguous when asked about the Hong Kong protesters, a topic that complicates his effort to reach an agreement to end his trade war with Beijing. Trump told reporters on Oct. 7 that if "anything happened bad" that would be "very bad for the negotiation." He said he hoped "they can work out something that’s amicable."
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China had previously threatened to retaliate if Trump signed the measure.