September 20, 2017

Cardin, Rubio, Colleagues Stand In Solidarity With Imprisoned Hong Kong Democracy Activists

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were joined by their colleagues U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) in a letter Wednesday expressing solidarity with pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Alex Chow, and Nathan Law, who are currently serving jail time for their involvement in the 2014 "Umbrella Movement" protests. 

“We want you to know that we have heard your words and that we share your earnest desire for a democratic Hong Kong,” states the senators’ letter. “In the end, it is up to your government to do more to respect the rights of its own people. However, we also believe the United States cannot stand idly by as these rights are trampled and the people of Hong Kong suffer the consequences. If the courts do not reverse your sentences on appeal, it will cast a further shadow not only on the rights of many in Hong Kong, but also on the special relationship that Hong Kong enjoys with the United States. It is important that you know in the days, months, and years ahead that you have friends in the United States that stand with you and with all those in Hong Kong who share your vision for democracy and human rights.”

The full text of the Senators’ letter is below:

Dear Joshua, Alex, and Nathan,

As members of the United States Senate, we wish to let you know that we stand in solidarity with you and your efforts to build a genuinely autonomous Hong Kong that respects democracy, rule of law, and human rights. The decision by the court to impose disproportionate months-long sentences for activities related to the exercise of free speech and assembly—consistent with the Basic Law and Hong Kong’s special status—is a severe blow to the principle of “one country, two systems”. As deep and genuine friends of the people of Hong Kong, we have grave concerns about the direction in which Hong Kong is headed, and we hope that as you pursue an appeal of your sentences that justice will, in the end, prevail.

Your leadership in the Umbrella Movement demonstrated what a peaceful movement, dedicated to the rights embedded in Hong Kong’s own laws, society, and traditions can accomplish. In speaking not just to Hong Kong’s values but also universal values, the Umbrella Movement has captured the attention of the entire world. Unfortunately, China has disregarded the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong and instead focused on thwarting progress toward universal suffrage. The fact that the Hong Kong government decided to seek tougher punishments despite the penalties imposed by a court a year ago, including community service sentences that Joshua and Nathan already completed, is an alarming injustice that raises questions of political and outside interference in what should be an independent judicial process. It is clear from your sentences that the judgment aimed to not only deny you more than half a year of your life, but also prohibit your future involvement in Hong Kong politics. As was evident from the thousands of Hong Kongers who protested your sentence, your continued acts of courage in the face of political pressure and imprisonment will undoubtedly inspire others who yearn for autonomy and democracy in Hong Kong.

In a series of tweets, Joshua wrote: “You can lock up our bodies, but not our minds! We want democracy in Hong Kong. And we will not give up. They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hongkongers. Imprisoning us will not extinguish Hongkonger’s desire for universal suffrage. We are stronger, more determined, and we will win.”

We want you to know that we have heard your words and that we share your earnest desire for a democratic Hong Kong. In the end, it is up to your government to do more to respect the rights of its own people. However, we also believe the United States cannot stand idly by as these rights are trampled and the people of Hong Kong suffer the consequences. If the courts do not reverse your sentences on appeal, it will cast a further shadow not only on the rights of many in Hong Kong, but also on the special relationship that Hong Kong enjoys with the United States. It is important that you know in the days, months, and years ahead that you have friends in the United States that stand with you and with all those in Hong Kong who share your vision for democracy and human rights. 

Sincerely,