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.
Without doubt, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the NBA’s greatest and most colorful players of all-time. Of course, he’s retired now, and is working as an analyst/commentator on TNT’s Inside the NBA show with host Ernie Johnson, and fellow former NBA stars Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.
In a discussion on the show, Shaq has this to say about the controversy over Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet support the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement:
As American people, we do a lot of business in China, and they know and understand our values and we understand their values. And one of our best values in America is free speech. We’re allowed to say what we want to say and we’re allowed to speak up on injustices, and that’s just how it goes.
Shaq understands what it is to be an American. Cynics might say that he’s retired and very, very wealthy, so it doesn’t cost him anything to say what he said. True, but the NBA as a whole and many of the players and coaches that have backed down to pressure from China are also very, very wealthy. They could also easily afford to forego some money coming from China in order to stand up for American values and for the people of Hong Kong that are fighting to retain those same values: free speech, free assembly, self-representation and universal suffrage, and a fair and independent judiciary and legal system.
As we noted in an article from two weeks ago, “The Love of Money,” greed leads to short-term thinking and bad decisions that often are destructive, not just to those making the poor choices, but also to people around them, and even to entire countries and the whole world. The NBA and some of its coaches and players have been caught in that. To continue making money from basketball fans in China, they have been trying to appease the oppressive and evil CCP. It’s wrong and shortsighted, and we are very happy to see Shaquille O’Neal come down squarely on the side of human rights and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Vice President Pence Speaks on Hong Kong and U.S. Relationship China
In recent weeks, we’ve seen numerous U.S. senators and representatives making appearances in Hong Kong, posting tweets and video supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and it is under consideration in the Senate (it needs to be passed by the Senate as soon as possible; we urge the Senate leadership to schedule it for a vote immediately).
However, the Trump administration has been relatively restrained in its comments on Hong Kong – until today, when Vice President Pence spoke on the subject.
And to the millions in Hong Kong who have been peacefully demonstrating to protect your rights these past months, we stand with you. We are inspired by you, and we urge you to stay on the path of nonviolent protest. But know that you have the prayers and the admiration of millions of Americans.
Vice President Pence
The Vice President’s clear statement supporting the pro-democracy movement is heartening. He tied Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong to the outcome of trade negotiations, reiterating earlier statements that “it would be much harder for us to make a trade deal if the authorities resort to the use of violence against protestors in Hong Kong.”
The Vice President also talked about the NBA’s shameful handling of the CCP’s reaction to Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the Hong Kong demonstrators, saying:
And some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China. In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.
A progressive corporate culture that willfully ignores the abuse of human rights is not progressive; it is repressive.
When American corporations, professional sports, pro athletes embrace censorship, it’s not just wrong; it’s un-American. American corporations should stand up for American values here at home and around the world.
Vice President Pence
The Vice President’s and Shaquille O’Neal’s remarks on the NBA’s handling of Daryl Morey’s tweet reflect American values. As Shaq said – Daryl Morey was right.
Foreign Policy’s web site has a good article on the Vice President’s speech. Read it at this link:
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.
According to the Congressional Research office, 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. • 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. • 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. • 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. • 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.
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.
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 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.
As everyone predicted, other than the completely clueless Carrie Lam, the ban on masks in Hong Kong has only led to more protests and violence. The only thing more predictable was that the Hong Kong police would use the mask ban as an excuse to brutalize even more people, whether involved in a protest or not.
The Hong Kong police are out looking for people to beat. This young couple is walking down the street minding their own business, not protesting, not in a large gathering, completely innocent. The mask ban allow police officers to ask people to remove their masks for identification in such a situation. What is does not allow police to do is to tackle them to the ground, injuring them, and putting their knees into their backs. And look who is wearing masks and in a large group. Yeah, it’s the Hong Kong police. But of course, the mask ban doesn’t apply to them. It’s too ironic.
What’s worse is that when the Hong Kong police leadership is shown this video, they will shamelessly deny that there is any problem at all with the behavior of the police. Since they know they will never be held to account, the police act more and more brutally. It is time for sanctions against members of the Hong Kong government and police leadership. The U.S. needs to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act as soon as possible and invoke the Magnitsky Act against them immediately.
During the committee meeting, U.S. Senator Cory Gardner said that China constantly threatens Taiwan’s democracy and that the U.S. “should use every tool to support Taiwan’s standing on the international stage.” Gardner described the act as a “whole-of-government approach” to send a clear signal to the world “that there will be consequences for supporting Chinese actions that undermine Taiwan.”
It is gratifying to see the U.S. Congress showing bipartisan support for democracy in Asia, yesterday by unanimously passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act out of the respective House and Senate committees, and today passing the TAIPEI Act out of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. We urge Congress to pass these bills out of the entire House and Senate and send them to President Trump for his signature as soon as possible.
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:
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.