1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

Marco Rubio’s bill supporting Hong Kong protests passes Senate

Rubio’s bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would sanction Chinese officials involved in undermining ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and put the quasi city-state’s special trade relationship with the U.S. up for review.
Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio
Published Nov. 21, 2019

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s bill to support ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong amid escalating violence between police and protesters passed the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, a bipartisan rebuke of China as the U.S. negotiates a trade deal with the world’s second-largest economy.

Rubio’s bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would sanction Chinese officials involved in undermining ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and put the quasi city-state’s special trade relationship with the U.S. up for review. The bill passed via a fast-tracked process called unanimous consent, when Rubio and senators from both parties argued that inaction was unacceptable after Hong Kong police began shooting at pro-democracy protesters last week.

“The world witnesses the people of Hong Kong standing up every day to defend their long-cherished freedoms against an increasingly aggressive Beijing and Hong Kong government. Their cries have been met with violence, and young Hong Kong lives have tragically been lost,” Rubio said in a statement. “Now more than ever, the United States must send a clear message to Beijing that the free world stands with Hong Kongers in their struggle.”

The bill passed the U.S. Senate a month after the U.S. House passed a nearly identical measure by voice vote. However, the Senate bill won’t head to President Donald Trump’s desk immediately because of procedural differences with the House-passed bill, which must be resolved before it can be signed into law.

A White House official declined to comment on the bill, which the Chinese government said will lead to “strong countermeasures” if it becomes law. A Rubio source said his office’s communication with the White House is “very positive” and there’s “no indication POTUS would not sign it.”

The bill is the latest effort to combat China by Rubio, who has emerged as one of Beijing’s harshest critics in Washington.

Earlier this year, Rubio and Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott supported tariffs on Chinese imports that were opposed by Florida businesses. They argued that tariffs are a necessary short term cost to limit Chinese influence over the U.S. economy in the long term.

Scott said in an interview with the Miami Herald that he expects Trump to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk, noting that Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently made speeches in support of the protests.

“I think they’ll sign it,” Scott said. “I think it’s clearly evident when Pence gave that talk that they understand the importance of being supportive of Hong Kong.”

A group of Democratic and Republican senators gathered on the Senate floor Tuesday evening to support Rubio’s bill, including Scott and New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

“This has been a great, bipartisan moment for the Senate,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley said Tuesday’s bill was a measure designed to check China’s power.

“Today’s vote sends a clear message that the United States will continue to stand with the people of Hong Kong as they battle Beijing’s imperialism,” Hawley said. “The Chinese Communist Party’s quest for power across the region is a direct threat to America’s security and prosperity.”

The ongoing protests in Hong Kong, which began in March and intensified in June after the introduction of a bill that would allow Hong Kong residents to be extradited to mainland China despite differences between Hong Kong and China’s legal systems, received increased attention in the U.S. after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the protesters.

Morey’s tweet led to the Chinese government’s pulling the National Basketball Association’s games from state-run TV networks and a slew of NBA stars to sympathize with China over Hong Kong.

“To the brave and resilient people of Hong Kong, the United States is with you, your fight will not be in vain and it does not go unnoticed,” Scott said. “And to communist China, consider your next moves carefully. The world is watching.”

McClatchy DC White House reporters Michael Wilner and Francesca Chambers contributed to this report.


  1. State Rep. Adam Hattersley, D-Riverview, speaks before volunteers with the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action outside the Florida Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. [[LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times]]
    Like it has since the Parkland massacre, the gun debate is growing fierce in Tallahassee. But there are some significant changes this year.
  2. West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James talks with his Director of Communications Kathleen Walter while going over the state of the city address in his office at the City of West Palm Beach municipal building in West Palm Beach, Florida on Wednesday, January 15, 2020.  [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James leads a city about the same the size as Buttigieg’s South Bend. Here’s what his day looks like. Is this presidential experience?
  3. The Florida Supreme Court, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    “Death is indeed different,” wrote the lone dissenting justice. “This Court has taken a giant step backward."
  4. State Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, presents legislation to create a new chapter of Florida law dedicated to parents' rights when dealing with government and other agencies, during a committee meeting Jan. 23, 2020. [The Florida Channel]
    Parents have been marginalized by bureaucracy, and need to be empowered in law, sponsor Rep. Erin Grall says.
  5. Wichita State Shockers center Jaime Echenique (21) and USF Bulls guard David Collins (0) battle for the loose ball during the second half at the Yuengling Center in Tampa on Tuesday. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Lawmakers may require public colleges and universities to ask permission before selling naming rights.
  6. The Florida Capitol at the start of the legislative session on Jan. 14, 2020, in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
    If the proposal is approved by the Senate, it would appear before voters in November.
  7. Robert Ray, a member of President Trump's defense team, arrives at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. The U.S. Senate plunges into President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial with Republicans abruptly abandoning plans to cram opening arguments into two days but solidly rejecting for now Democratic demands for more witnesses to expose what they deem Trump’s “trifecta” of offenses. Trump himself claims he wants top aides to testify, but qualified that by suggesting there were “national security” concerns to allowing their testimony. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) [CLIFF OWEN  |  AP]
    Trump reportedly wanted a star-studded team capable of performing on TV.
  8. Algae laps along the shoreline of the St. Lucie River in 2019, when heavy rains forced the release of tainted water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. The releases spawned massive blue-green algae blooms.
    Environmentalists say Florida faces a water quality crisis. But lawmakers are watering down rules to tackle fertilizer runoff.
  9. Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum told a House committee that the state should change state law to limit cities and counties from filing lawsuits against corporations on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. [LAWRENCE MOWER | Tampa Bay Times]
    Former Attorney General Bill McCollum said “it’s a big mess.” Cities and counties disagree.
  10. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a protocolary meeting of the Permanent Council at the Organization of the American States, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Michael A. McCoy) [MICHAEL A. MCCOY  |  AP]
    The U.S. State Department wouldn’t comment on the official visit, except to say doors open to the public at 4 p.m.