Hong Kong, a bustling international business hub and one of the world’s most significant commercial ports, is often wrongly assumed to be under the full control of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Less than 25 years ago, Hong Kong was still a British colony. It was handed back to China under a policy known as “one country, two systems”—which suggests that while there is only one China, Hong Kong would retain its own economic and administrative systems. The arrangement allows for Hong Kong to function as a separate entity while the rest of mainland China is governed by the communist system administered by Beijing.
As a result, the citizens of Hong Kong enjoy many liberties denied to those of mainland China. For instance, they have the right to assemble, the right to unfettered access to the internet and freedom of speech.
Now, those rights appear to be slipping away.
In early June, protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong to denounce attempts from China’s communist regime to institute the same brutal surveillance state it uses to oppress its citizens.
The resulting police crackdown enflamed the already high tensions. Now, parts of Hong Kong look like a war zone as the violent response of government forces has led to chaos.
The choice for the U.S. on this issue is quite simple. We must stand up for American values. We must stand with the people of Hong Kong.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation, signed into law by President Trump, that supports the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by giving Washington additional tools to respond to PRC belligerences.
Specifically, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act—which I proudly co-sponsored—authorizes additional sanctions for Chinese and Hong Kong officials tied to human rights abuses. It also requires the State Department to review the special autonomous status the U.S. grants Hong Kong on an annual basis.
This new law has not gone over well with the authoritarian regime in Beijing, which would like nothing more than for the rest of the world to look the other way while it cracks down on the people of Hong Kong who are simply seeking to preserve the freedoms they have been promised.
The Communist Party of China would like the world to believe that these organic protests are somehow being orchestrated by outside interests. In response to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the regime sanctioned several American nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations it accused of being behind the protests. It is the latest in a long line of propaganda efforts to deflect responsibility for the violence.
The regime needs to perpetuate the idea that these organizations are fomenting unrest because the reality is detrimental to its ability to maintain its authoritarian control. Unfortunately for the regime, the truth is much more troublesome. The people of Hong Kong simply want to preserve their rights. The regime wants to continue to chip away at those freedoms while hiding the real story from the mainland citizens it already oppresses.
Standing with the people of Hong Kong is the right thing to do. I am pleased that President Trump, in signing the bill into law, recognizes our policy decisions regarding China go well beyond trade. Beijing needs to understand that our desire to finalize a better trade deal does not mean we will turn a blind eye to human rights abuses.