As Hong Kong protests rage, U.S. lawmakers introduce rights protection act



Thursday, June 13, 2019

U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (left)
signs a postcard for Li Mingche,
a Taiwanese dissident wrongly imprisoned
in China, as Li's wife, Li Chingyu, looks on.
McGovern is currently partnering with
Senator Marco Rubio to spearhead a piece
protecting Hong Kong's rights.
(Photo: ChinaAid)
ChinaAid

(Washington, D.C.—June 13, 2019) U.S. lawmakers revived the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act today in an effort to protect the rights of Hong Kong residents, following protests opposing an extradition bill that would grant China the ability to order Hong Kong dissidents sent to China for trial.

According to a press release issued by the U.S.’s Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), “U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Chair and Cochair respectively of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), along with CECC Commissioner and former Chair, U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) today reintroduced the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, bicameral and bipartisan legislation that reaffirms the U.S. commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law at a time when these freedoms and Hong Kong’s autonomy are being eroded through interference by the Chinese government and Communist Party.”

The press release went on to say that Senators Bob Menendez, Jim Risch, Ben Cardin, Ed Markey, Angus King, Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley placed their name on the Act along with Rubio, and that Representatives Scott Perry, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Tom Suozzi co-sponsored the bill in the United States House of Representatives. The Act would ensure that Hong Kong’s rights and autonomy are respected by requiring actions from the U.S. Secretary of State, the President, and the Secretary of Commerce as well as ensuring Hong Kong residents are denied visas to the United States due to legal actions taken against them for advocating for democracy or championing Hong Kong’s human rights or rule of law.

The introduction of the Act coincides with protests rising within Hong Kong in opposition to a bill that would allow those living in Hong Kong to be sent to China for court hearings. Conversations about such a bill arose from a case between Hong Kong and Taiwan, in which a Hong Kong resident allegedly strangled his girlfriend to death in Taiwan and then returned home. Taiwan wishes to try him for murder, but since the two territories do not share an extradition agreement, Hong Kong lacks the ability to send him to the island nation.

The China bill, however, is fiercely controversial. Prior to handing Hong Kong back over to China in 1997, Britain asked China to establish a mini-constitution to be honored for 50 years. The resulting document, the Basic Law, outlines how China and Hong Kong are to be “one country, two systems,” with Hong Kong retaining its legal system, legislature, and economic structure. The law placed a barrier between China and Hong Kong, which has allowed for freer expression within the latter and served as a safer place for people persecuted by the Chinese government for their political or religious views.

Because of this, many human rights experts and Hong Kong residents fear the bill might erode their ability to speak and believe freely, as it grants China access to individuals previously protected by the Basic Law. Since Sunday, many have taken to the streets in protest, with crowds swarming the streets leading to the city’s Legislative Council yesterday, where debates regarding the bill were scheduled to be held that day.

Hong Kong dispatched 5,000 riot police, firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bag weaponry at the protesters and driving them away from the Council. According to Hong Kong medical authorities, up to 80 have been injured, with two in critical condition. Because of the conflict, the Council has opted to postpone the debates and has given no more official notice on when they will be held.

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