Smith, China Commission, Witnesses Speak Out on Hong Kong Crisis at Congressional HearingHong Kong’s Struggle to Stay Free
The inspiring protests in Hong Kong are “a daily reminder of the stark differences between free and authoritarian societies,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), at a bipartisan hearing held today by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) on “Hong Kong’s Summer of Discontent and U.S. Policy Responses” carried live on CSPAN. Smith is a CECC Commissioner as well as a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The people of Hong Kong have shown us again that a free people will not easily accept the boot of repression without protest,” said Smith, author of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
Smith, as well as CECC chair Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), co-chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and other members of the commission, focused on developments in Hong Kong and the future of U.S.-Hong Kong relations in light of the ongoing demonstrations and the escalating tensions caused by police violence and threats by the Chinese government against Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Testifying in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Hong Kong’s political crisis were: Joshua Wong: Secretary-General, Demosistō and “Umbrella Movement” leader; Denise Ho, Pro-democracy Activist and Cantopop singer and actress; Sunny Cheung, spokesperson of the Hong Kong Higher Education International Affairs Delegation (HKIAD); Sharon Hom, the Executive Director of the Human Rights in China and Professor of Law Emerita, City University of New York, and Dr. Dan Garrett, author of “Counter-hegemonic Resistance in China’s Hong Kong: Visualizing Protest in the City (2014).”
Wong testified, “The ongoing demonstrations began on June 9 when one million Hong Kongers took to the streets in protest of proposed legislation that would’ve allowed criminal suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to China, where there are no guarantees of the rule of law.” Noting that the pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets, sponge bullets, bean bag rounds, and water cannons used repeatedly by police against peaceful protestors were almost entirely imported from Western democracies, Wong said, “I applaud Chairman McGovern and Congressman Smith for introducing the PROTECT Hong Kong Act last week in the House of Representatives. American companies mustn’t profit from the violent crackdown of freedom-loving Hong Kongers… .”
Ho testified, “What started out as a million people march against an extradition bill, morphed into a determined fight for a fundamental political reform in Hong Kong. Misjudgments and arrogance on behalf of Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong, resulted in a total clampdown of the Beijing government over Hong Kong affairs.” She said Lam hides behind the police force, refusing to resolve political issues. “She has given police full authority to suppress the protests at all costs. Since June, the Hong Kong police has shown excessive brutality in their use of force, arresting and beating up peaceful protesters heavily at uncountable occasions. More than 1400 people have been arrested up to date, with even more (including journalists, first aiders and social workers) severely injured by tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and the police’s indiscriminate use of batons… .”
Cheung testified, “Hong Kong’s extradition law protests began as a protest against amendments to the city’s extradition legislation which could have marked the end of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The Hong Kong government was trying to change the legislation so that it would become legal to extradite people to mainland China. China’s courts have no independence, and this move would have permanently compromised Hong Kong’s rule of law and autonomy which are protected under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the one-country, two-systems principle.” He said that the protests are driven by the ongoing violent actions of the police. “Beijing has given the Hong Kong Police Force complete free rein, and their actions have horrified the Hong Kong public. Their actions include randomly firing tear gas to the general public and journalists, firing tear gas inside train stations, shooting rubber bullets to the heads, as well as the mistreatment and torture of detainees… .”
Hom testified, “I want to thank the Commission members for their critical support for the Hong Kong people and leadership on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Protect Hong Kong Act. Over the past three months, the whole world has witnessed a historic David and Goliath standoff. Against all odds, the Hong Kong people are standing up to the powerful, authoritarian regime in Beijing. In this historic battle, they are not only fighting for the democratic future of 7.4 million Hong Kong people, but they also [are]holding the regional and global frontline on preserving human dignity and rights for all people... .”
Garrett testified, “Congress and the Executive Branch should strongly warn Chinese authorities that use of the People’s Armed Police or People’s Liberation Army to quell the anti-extradition protests would unequivocally result in an immediate, unsuspendable 90-day (or longer) suspension of the Special Administrative Region’s special customs status and commensurate closures of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office’s offices in the United States.” He further said “Recognizing that Hong Kong’s fight for its liberal freedoms and democracy is also the Free World’s fight, Congress should fund and promote the development of Hong Kong and “One Country, Two Systems” studies to better understand and respond to Chinese Communist Party efforts… .”