On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Mary., U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ. sent a letter to President Donald Trump to issue a statement condemning the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and endanger U.S. residents in Hong Kong. Since the end of March 2019, Hong Kongers have peacefully protested a problematic extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (SAR) Government. The bill would allow for the people of Hong Kong and foreigners to be extradited to China, where the judicial system is often used as a tool of repression. Rubio is the cochairman of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).
The full text of the letter is below.
We write regarding the ongoing protests by Hong Kong citizens over an extradition bill that would have made anyone living in or passing through Hong Kong vulnerable to extradition to China. The suspended bill poses a direct threat to U.S. security and economic interests as well as the safety of Americans. Protesters have been met with violence, and Beijing has accused the U.S. of fomenting the unrest. We therefore urge you to issue a strong statement condemning Beijing’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, endanger U.S. residents of Hong Kong, and its suspected use of hired thugs to suppress the protests by the people of Hong Kong.
Since the end of March 2019, the people of Hong Kong have taken to the streets to protest an extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (SAR) Government. The Hong Kong SAR Government refused to address the concerns of Hong Kong’s business and civil society leaders or the millions of Hong Kong residents who demonstrated peacefully against the bill on June 9, June 12, and June 16, 2019. Although the Hong Kong SAR Government suspended the extradition bill in response to public opposition, they did not withdraw it. Peaceful demonstrations have continued; however, they have been followed by violent confrontations between police and demonstrators.
The Hong Kong Police Force has repeatedly targeted journalists and needlessly endangered lives through their careless use of non-lethal crowd control equipment. On Sunday night, July 22, 2019, suspected organized criminals likely backed by the Chinese Communist Party attacked demonstrators and ordinary citizens alike at the Yuen Long MTR Station. Although some arrests were made, Hong Kong police did little to stem the violence or to hold those responsible to account. Beijing appears only to be contributing to the escalating tensions in Hong Kong. Chinese officials have reportedly made veiled threats to U.S. diplomats and residents of Hong Kong and suggested there may be grounds for intervention by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Hong Kong. Such statements are unacceptable and demand a strong response from the United States and the international community. Failure to respond to Beijing’s threats will only encourage Chinese leaders to act with impunity.
Hong Kong’s governance is not China’s internal affair. China must fully abide by the terms and the spirit of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, a legally binding treaty that guarantees Hong Kong’s legal autonomy from the mainland. U.S. interests are at stake if Hong Kong’s autonomy is further eroded. The Chinese government’s willingness to uphold its international commitments have a direct bearing on whether any agreement with Beijing, especially on trade, can ever be trusted.
As the sponsors of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, we stand ready to work with you on this important issue.