Marco Rubio Tries to Speed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act Through Senate

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) and a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is looking to move his “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” quickly through the Senate.

Hong Kong has been in the headlines in recent months due to high-profile protests which started over a proposed extradition policy that could lead activists in Hong Kong to be deported to mainland China.

Rubio first unveiled the proposal, which “would renew the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault,” in November 2016 and brought it back twice since then. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., have been among its chief supporters in the Senate.

Specifically, the proposal would continue following the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 for insisting on democracy and human rights for that city. The legislation would also make the secretary of State issue annual reports on how democratic institutions are faring in Hong Kong and help “Umbrella Movement” activists opposing the communist Chinese regime apply for visas.

“When the British handed over Hong Kong to the Chinese twenty years ago this June, Beijing promised Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy guaranteed under Basic Law,” Rubio said when he brought the bill back in 2017. “However, in recent years, Beijing has consistently undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and infringed on the democratic freedoms the residents of Hong Kong are supposed to be guaranteed. China’s assault on democratic institutions and human rights is of central importance to the people of Hong Kong and to its status as a free market, economic powerhouse and hub for international trade and investment. The importance of this legislation was further impressed upon me late last year after meeting with pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who became the face of the Umbrella Movement for many in late 2014. Joshua is an impressive and thoughtful young man who, along with his fellow activists, represents the future of Hong Kong — a future that must not go the way of Beijing’s failed authoritarianism and one-party rule. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms America’s support of the people of Hong Kong as they seek to oppose Beijing’s efforts to erode democratic institutions.”

On Thursday, Rubio and U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, looked to move quickly on the bill, which passed the committee back in September, through the “Hotline” process, which lets bills move quickly with unanimous consent. The bill cleared the committee without opposition.

“The world witnesses the people of Hong Kong standing up every day to defend their long-cherished freedoms against an increasingly aggressive Beijing and Hong Kong government. Their cries have been met with violence, and young Hong Kong lives have tragically been lost,” Rubio said. “Now more than ever, the United States must send a clear message to Beijing that the free world stands with Hong Kongers in their struggle. I thank Leaders McConnell and Schumer for their support, as well as Chairman Risch, Ranking Member Menendez, and Senator Cardin for their strong partnership on this legislation and look forward to its enactment.”

“The world needs to see that the United States will stand up and tell the Chinese Communist Party that what they are doing to the people of Hong Kong is wrong,” Risch said. “After more than two decades of broken promises, it is time to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The U.S. stands with the people of Hong Kong, and I look forward to continuing to work with Senate leadership and my colleagues across the aisle to move this bill swiftly.”

Increasingly, Rubio is focused on Asian affairs. Besides leading the CECC, Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism Subcommittee and on the East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy Subcommittee.


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