China furious, Hong Kong celebrates after US move on bills

A policeman from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit looks at the debris at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus in Hong Kong, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. Police safety teams Thursday began clearing the university that was a flashpoint for clashes with protesters, and an officer said any holdouts still hiding inside would not be immediately arrested. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BEIJING – China reacted furiously Thursday to President Donald Trump’s signing two bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong, summoning the U.S. ambassador to protest and warning the move would undermine cooperation with Washington.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that was granted semi-autonomy when China took control in 1997, has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations.

Thousands of pro-democracy activists crowded a public square in downtown Hong Kong on Thursday night for a “Thanksgiving Day” rally to thank the United States for passing the laws and vowed to “march on” in their fight.

Trump’s approval of the bills was not unexpected. Neither was the reaction from Beijing, given China’s adamant rejections of any commentary on what it considers an internal issue.

Nevertheless, the clash comes at a sensitive time and could upset already thorny trade negotiations between the two nations.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad that the move constituted “serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious violation of international law,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Le called it a “nakedly hegemonic act.” He urged the U.S. not to implement the bills to prevent greater damage to U.S.-China relations, the ministry said.

In a statement about the meeting, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said, “the Chinese Communist Party must honor its promises to the Hong Kong people.”