Florida’s Republican Senator and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Marco Rubio and Republican Arizona Senator Tom Cotton introduced a revised version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to congress. The revision comes as a response to the recent abductions of booksellers and the removal of Hong Kong pro-independence leaders from office.
The city of Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of China since 1997. The relationship between Hong Kong and China works under the principle “One Country, Two Systems.” Other than foreign affairs and defense, Hong Kong operates independently.
However, in the past year, there have been conflicts between the two entities. According to Rubio, the act will “renew the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault.”
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms the principles of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. In addition to the U.S. support of democratic actions, freedom of expression and the upholding of human rights, it also warns against the government of the People’s Republic of China from obstructing Hong Kong’s independence.
The revised act will also require that Hong Kong issue an annual report, and the U.S. Secretary of State will determine if it is operating independently. Furthermore, the act calls to freeze the assets of individuals who violate the rights of Hong Kong citizens.
The act cites cases in which pro-democracy activists have been harassed. Some have had legal charges pressed against them, while others have faced travel restrictions. Members of the press have disappeared after publishing works criticizing Beijing. Journalists who have done the same have been physically attacked.
“China’s assault on democratic institutions and human rights is of central importance to the people of Hong Kong and of its status as a free market, economic powerhouse, and hub for international trade and investment,” Rubio said. “It is critical in the days ahead that the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong be a vital U.S. interest and foreign policy priority.”
By introducing the new Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, it aims to draw attention to the increased reports of human rights violations in Hong Kong linked to China, as well as punish those who do not uphold democracy.
– Karla Umanzor