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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks fall as US bill on Hong Kong threatens to derail trade talks

Chinese airlines, carmakers among major losers on A300 index

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan declined Wednesday after the U.S. Senate passed a bill that seeks to protect human rights in Hong Kong, a move that could hurt the chances of a Sino-American trade deal.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies outside Japan fell 0.6% to 1,324.46.

The U.S. Senate yesterday passed the "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act," paving the way for increased scrutiny of the city's special treatment under the U.S. law and imposition of sanctions for human rights violation. The bill is a sign of support to the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, who have been demanding more autonomy from Beijing.

The passage of the bill, which needs to be approved by President Donald Trump to become a law, comes after the police laid siege to a university in the city where protesters had taken shelter. The U.S. lawmaker who sponsored the bill said it is a message to Beijing that the free world stands with Hong Kong people in their struggle.

Following the U.S. Senate's passage of the bill, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry warned Washington to stop interfering in Hong Kong and Chinese affairs and said that it will take necessary measures to protect its sovereignty, according to a Reuters report.

The bill risks derailing the ongoing trade negotiations between the two countries. The U.S. and China are attempting to reach an interim trade deal that would ease their long-running trade conflict.

An index of Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong declined 0.7% on Wednesday. Want Want China Holdings declined 3.1%. The shares had advanced 4.5% on Tuesday following an increase in the company's first-half profit.

Chinese airlines and carmakers were among the other major losers. Air China dropped 2.1% and Great Wall Motor ended 1% lower.

Offshore oil producer CNOOC fell 1.5% following a more than 2% decline on Brent crude yesterday. The company late Tuesday said Xu Keqiang was appointed the chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries advanced 2.5% after the company said its telecom unit Reliance Jio Infocomm will raise tariffs in the next few weeks. Rivals Bharti Airtel slid 0.5% while Vodafone Idea jumped 17.4%.

Lotte Shopping dropped 2.6%. South Korea's antitrust regulator fined the retailer for passing on sales promotional expenses to pork suppliers, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

--Nimesh Vora

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