WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today praised the Committee’s unanimous passage of the amended Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S. 1830) at a time when Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms are under assault by interference from the Chinese government and Communist Party.
This amended bipartisan bill would require the Secretary of State to evaluate, no less than annually, Hong Kong’s autonomy in various areas, including government decision-making, law enforcement and extradition requests, universal suffrage, judicial independence, police and security functions, export controls, and sanctions enforcement, and also to certify whether Hong Kong continues to warrant special status treatment under U.S. laws. The legislation would also mandate the President to impose sanctions against foreign persons determined to be responsible for extrajudicial rendition, arbitrary detention, torture, or forced confession of people in Hong Kong, or other gross violations of human rights in Hong Kong. In addition, the bill would task the Executive Branch to develop a strategy to protect American citizens and others in Hong Kong from rendition or abduction to China, and to report annually to Congress on violations of U.S. export controls laws and United Nations sanctions occurring in Hong Kong.
“For months now the world has witnessed the bravery of tens of thousands of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong whose quest for autonomy and democracy has been beaten back with brutal force. Our bill sends a strong message that Congress and the people of the United States stand in solidarity with them,” Cardin said. “The United States cannot stand idly by as China tramples on the basic human and civil rights of the people of Hong Kong and spreads disinformation in an attempt to discredit and silence their voices. Our bill demonstrates the Congress’ work across party lines to ensure robust affirmation of Hong Kong’s autonomy and to make clear that there must be consequences those who seek to further undermine it.”
“As the people of Hong Kong stand up in defense of their long-cherished autonomy and freedoms, I want them to know that the United States and the free world support them,” Rubio said. “Beijing continues to erode the autonomy that it had promised to Hong Kong in a legally-binding 1984 international treaty with Britain and under Hong Kong’s Basic Law. I urge Congress to pass this bill and send it to the President for enactment so the United States and partner nations can hold China fully accountable for its ongoing efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy.”
“The special character of Hong Kong is one of the world’s great success stories,” Ranking Member Menendez said. “The vibrancy of the people of Hong Kong and their economic success and their yearning for democracy and self-governance is inspirational. This bill will send a clear and uncompromising statement that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong in their quest to maintain their self-governance and autonomy, to safeguard their human rights, to exercise their democratic freedom, and to determine their own future.”
“After more than two decades of broken promises, it is time that we hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” Chairman Risch said. “This bill takes important steps in that direction. I am proud of the bipartisan work that went into this legislation— we are all proud to stand with the people of Hong Kong in pursuit of their fundamental freedoms.”
Co-sponsors include Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Maine), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roger Wicker (R-Miss), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
The House Foreign Affairs Committee today passed similar legislation that was introduced by U.S Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Text of the SFRC-passed legislation can be found here.