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Posts tagged as “hong kong human rights and democracy act”

Progress in the Senate!

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act unanimously on October 15, 2019. It was passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 25th. Since then, we have been waiting for the full Senate to take action on the bill. It has many co-sponsors, and the sponsors of the Senate bill have been getting impatient. Finally, we are seeing some action on this very important bill:

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is signaling that the bill will be voted on in the Senate soon. Let’s hope he follows through, and that it will be signed into law by President Trump very soon.

Another Step in the Right Direction: House Passes Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and PROTECT Hong Kong Act

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the PROTECT Hong Kong Act.

These two acts apply pressure to the Beijing and Hong Kong governments and support the pro-democracy demonstrators in their fight for their human rights, as promised to them in the treaty between the United Kingdom and China, which was registered with the United Nations. Those rights were then enshrined in the Hong Kong Basic Law.

The text of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/3289/text. The Wikipedia article on the bill says this:

According to the Congressional Research office,[2][3] the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would direct various departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong’s unique treatment under U.S. law. Specifically, it would:
• Require the Secretary of State to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify special treatment afforded to Hong Kong by the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.[13]
• Require the President to identify persons responsible for the abductions of Hong Kong booksellers and journalists and those complicit in suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong, including those complicit in the rendition of individuals, in connection to their exercise of internationally recognized rights, to mainland China for detention or trial, and to freeze their U.S.-based assets and deny them entry into the United States.[13]
• Require the President to issue a strategy to protect U.S. citizens and businesses from the risks posed by a revised Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, including by determining whether to revise the U.S.–Hong Kong extradition agreement and the State Department’s travel advisory for Hong Kong.[13]
• Require the Secretary of Commerce to issue an annual report assessing whether the government of Hong Kong is adequately enforcing both U.S. export regulations regarding sensitive dual-use items and U.S. and U.N. sanctions, particularly regarding Iran and North Korea.[13]
• Make clear that visa applicants shall not be denied visas on the basis of the applicant’s arrest, detention or other adverse government action taken as a result of their participation in the nonviolent protest activities related to pro-democracy advocacy, human rights, or the rule of law in Hong Kong.[13]

Wikipedia article on Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act

For the pro-democracy movement, the first, second, and last items are likely the most significant.

First, if Hong Kong’s autonomy is not guaranteed, it may lose its special status as a trading partner with the U.S. This will put enormous pressure on Hong Kong’s business people. They have significant influence on the Hong Kong government, and to some degree on the Beijing government. The CCP is trying to replace the Hong Kong financial markets with markets in Shenzhen and Shanghai, but even if that is ultimately successful, it will take time – probably some years. Much of the capital from the west that finances China’s business enters through Hong Kong, so losing special status would be a blow not just to Hong Kong, but also to mainland China. It is not something Beijing can just ignore; though the CCP will no doubt downplay its importance.

Next, the second bullet point contains a bombshell in the clause that says that the President must “identify persons…complicit in suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong…and to freeze their U.S.-based assets and deny them entry into the United States.” That is big. Members of the Hong Kong government and police, as well as members of the Beijing government identified by the U.S. administration as having oppressed the human rights of the people of Hong Kong risk losing investments and property in the U.S. and being denied entry. Given that many wealthy Chinese from the mainland and from Hong Kong have investments and property in the U.S., it is a powerful statement.

Finally, the last bullet point says that the pro-democracy demonstrators are welcome in the U.S. regardless of whether Hong Kong or mainland China says they have committed crimes, as they should be. Fighting for one’s natural human rights is not a crime.

The PROTECT Hong Kong Act is perhaps more symbolic, in that it will restrict the sale of tear gas and other non-lethal munitions to the Hong Kong government and police by U.S. companies. Those non-lethal munitions can undoubtedly be sourced from other countries, so the impact on brutality and violence by the Hong Kong police is probably limited. Nevertheless, it does send another message to the Hong Kong government that the U.S. will not be complicit in its violation of the rights of the demonstrators.

We continue to urge the U.S. government to take additional measures to pressure the Beijing and Hong Kong governments to honor the promises that they have made in formal treaties and in the Basic Law, to respect the rights of all citizens of Hong Kong to self-representation, free speech, free assembly, and a free and impartial legal system (among others). In addition, there must be a free, impartial, and effective investigation into the clearly documented acts of brutality committed by the Hong Kong police. The U.S. has additional legal and diplomatic tools at its disposal, including designating individuals and organizations under the Global Magnitsky Act and placement on the Department of Commerce Entity List. Despite the shameful actions of a few, the vast majority of Americans support the pro-democracy demonstrations. Continued support by prominent Americans, senators, and representatives encourages the demonstrators and adds pressure to the Beijing and Hong Kong governments to take necessary steps to guarantee Hong Kong’s rights and freedom. Americans in a position to speak up in support should do so, not hide behind moral equivalence and platitudes to protect their wallets. Have moral courage to do what is right.

Support the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act

The U.S. Congress is set to debate (and should pass) the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy act soon (tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives). Today, massive rallies were held in Hong Kong in support of the bill.

Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Hong Kongers took part in the rallies, asking for U.S. support of the bill.

As we’ve said before, the U.S. Congress should pass the bill as soon as possible, and President Trump should sign it into law. In addition, we strongly urge President Trump’s administration to designate members of the Hong Kong legislative council, including Carrie Lam, and the entire Hong Kong police force under the Global Magnitsky Act. Further measures should also be taken to add some Hong Kong individuals and companies to the Entities List by the U.S. Commerce Department, preventing them from doing business in or with the U.S. Twenty-eight Chinese companies and organizations were added to the Entities List a few days ago for their part in oppression of the Uyghurs and other Chinese Muslim populations. The people of Hong Kong are also suffering human rights abuses by the Hong Kong government and police, so the Hong Kong government and police, and their supporters in the Hong Kong business community, should be similarly placed on the Entities List.

Senator Ted Cruz Visits Hong Kong

Today, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is in Hong Kong investigating what is happening there and supporting the pro-democracy demonstrations.

Senator Cruz was apparently scheduled to meet Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, but when he arrived in Hong Kong was told that the meeting was cancelled.

Cruz said, and we agree with him:

What I have encouraged the protest leaders with whom I have spoken is to embrace non-violent protest, to follow the tradition of Gandhi in India and Dr Martin Luther King in the United States.
That can be difficult to carry out, it can be particularly difficult in the face of violent oppression by government forces, of police beatings and shootings.

Senator Ted Cruz, speaking to the South China Morning Post

We are gratified that prominent members of the U.S. government are standing with Hong Kong’s fight for human rights and freedom, and encouraging non-violent protests. We believe that much of the violence that we’ve seen in Hong Kong has been encouraged, if not out-right committed, by CCP agitators embedded in the protests and in the Hong Kong police force.

As Senator Cruz said during his interview:

There is a reason the Communist Party in China wants the Hong Kong protests to turn violent because the Chinese Communist Party very much wants to characterise these protests as violent acts of terrorism rather than democracy protesters standing up for human rights

Senator Ted Cruz, speaking to the South China Morning Post

Violence at the demonstrations plays into the CCP propaganda machine’s hands, and Beijing’s propagandists have made use of the violence that has occurred to try to paint the protesters as rioters destroying Hong Kong for no rational reason. Anyone paying attention knows that those accusations are false, but the CCP cares nothing for the truth. If a lie promotes their agenda, they will use it.

We again encourage Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the TAIPEI Act as soon as possible. The CCP’s assault on freedom and human rights must be halted.

Powerful Testimony By Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Before U.S. Congress

Today, Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Denise Ho, Sunny Cheung, and Joshua Wong testified before the U.S. Congress on the Hong Kong protests. The South China Morning Post has an excerpt of their power testimony on YouTube:

The entire hearing (nearly 3 hours long) is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQJZTi-XRls

We understand that the Trump administration wants a trade deal with China. President Trump is a businessman, and it is likely that he identifies with U.S. business leaders that want a deal. The U.S./China trade war is affecting the world’s economy, though it hasn’t so far impacted the U.S. economy much. On the other hand, it seems to have affected China’s economy, which was already facing a slowdown for other reasons, including the swine fever epidemic, which has increased pork prices in China. Beijing does not want the trade war to continue, so no doubt is willing to negotiate an end to the tariffs.

But some things are more important than profits – and the plight of the Hong Kong people is one of them. Beijing has broken the treaty that was negotiated with the U.K. establishing Hong Kong’s Basic Law guaranteeing the rights of the Hong Kong people. The Hong Kong police are increasing violent and are cooperating with triad gang enforcers to oppress the pro-democracy movement. The Hong Kong government led by Carrie Lam is incompetent and ignores and denies the movement’s demands and concerns.

The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong in China can only succeed if it has the backing of powerful allies (just as France backed the Americans in our revolutionary war). The very least that the U.S. can do is pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. President Trump should not let the Chinese hold the Act hostage to passage of a trade deal.

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