Date
21 October 2019
Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong and Denise Ho confer before testifying at a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong and Denise Ho confer before testifying at a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Activists push US Congress to pass Hong Kong bill

Hong Kong democracy activists urged members of the US Congress to pass legislation to combat human rights abuses in the city, rejecting any suggestion that such a move would be inappropriate US involvement in another country’s affairs, Reuters reports.

“This is not a plea for so-called foreign interference. This is a plea for democracy,” singer and activist Denise Ho Wan-see told a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China on Tuesday.

The panel of witnesses also urged members of the commission, which includes senators and members of the House of Representatives from both parties, to take actions that might affect Hong Kong’s economy.

“Beijing should not have it both ways, reaping all the economic benefits of Hong Kong’s standing in the world while eradicating our sociopolitical identity” said Joshua Wong Chi-fung, secretary-general of Demosistō party and leader of the 2014 Occupy protests.

Members of Congress at the hearing also pushed for a look at Hong Kong’s special trade status.

“The United States and other nations have options precisely because Beijing benefits from Hong Kong’s special status – a special status which has made Hong Kong an international financial center built on the promises that China made to the world with regards to Hong Kong, which they seek to break.” said Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican co-chairman of the commission.

The former British colony has been rocked by more than three months of sometimes violent clashes, with demonstrators angry over what they see as creeping interference by Beijing in Hong Kong’s affairs, despite a promise of autonomy.

Legislation was introduced in the US Senate and House earlier this year that would require an annual review of the special treatment Washington gives Hong Kong, including trade and business privileges.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would also make officials in China and Hong Kong who have undermined the city’s autonomy vulnerable to sanctions.

Another bill introduced in the House last week with support from Republicans and Democrats, the “PROTECT Hong Kong Act”, would bar commercial exports of some crowd-control items to the Hong Kong police force.

The legislation has not come up for a vote, but the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees are both holding hearings this week expected to address relations with China on issues including Hong Kong.

US President Donald Trump, who has been waging a tit-for-tat tariff war with China for more than a year, has suggested China should “humanely” settle the problem before a trade deal is reached.

Some industry groups worry that the legislation could threaten the delicate trade talks.

“Hopefully we will be able to pass some of this legislation to make it clear to the regime in Beijing that democracy is an important value,” said Senator Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

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