House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she is "pleased" President Donald Trump signed two bills Wednesday to support human rights in Hong Kong.
The bills come after months of protests in Hong Kong that drew millions of people started in June and centered on the democratic rights of Hong Kong citizens, including a since-withdrawn extradition bill that would have sent Hong Kong residents convicted of crimes to mainland China for trial.
“For six months, the people of Hong Kong have stirred the hearts of all freedom-loving people with their extraordinary outpouring of courage and their refusal to relinquish their demand for democracy and the rule of law, which was promised more than two decades ago," Pelosi said in a Thursday press release.
She continued to say that with the new laws, the U.S. is sending a message to the world that it stands "in solidarity" with Hong Kong and its people.
"Democrats and Republicans have long stood united in the fight for freedoms in China, whether for the Tibetan community, the Uyghur community, the people of Hong Kong or the many brave journalists, human rights lawyers, Christians and democracy activists on the mainland. If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out elsewhere," Pelosi said.
"I am pleased that the President signed this legislation and look forward to its prompt enforcement," she concluded.
The bills also come after nearly two years of trade negotiations and high tensions between the U.S. and China. The first phase of a potential trade deal was expected to be reached this month, but Trump suggested that signing the Hong Kong bill would further halt negotiations.
China reacted furiously Thursday to the president's signing of the two bills and summoned the U.S. ambassador to protest, warning that the move would undermine cooperation with Washington.
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.
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," adding that the U.S. "believes that Hong Kong's autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law, and its commitment to protecting civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law."
Trump said in a statement that he signed bills out "of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong."
"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," he added.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Thursday thanked the president for his "timely Thanksgiving present" and held American flags in celebration of the new laws, CNN reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.