Washington—Today the Congressional-Executive Commission on China chair U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and co-chair U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-4) along with U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Roger Wicker (R-MS),and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Representatives Dan Lipinski (IL-3), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), and Frank Wolf (VA-10) announced introduction of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bipartisan bill that would renew the United States’ commitment to Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy.
“Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms—essential to its relations with the U.S.—are under threat from China. At this critical time, we must strongly support the universal rights of the people of Hong Kong, including free and fair elections in 2017 and beyond,” Brown, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said. “Our bipartisan bill would ensure that the United States can continue to monitor Hong Kong while ensuring that its democracy and freedoms remain a cornerstone of U.S. policy.”
“The steady erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy is the concern of freedom-loving people everywhere,” Smith, co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said. “Hong Kong's unique system has ensured prosperity and spurred the type of creativity and vitality that only comes with the advancement of fundamental freedoms. Protecting these freedoms are a bedrock interest of U.S. foreign policy. The special privileges the U.S. grants to Hong Kong can only exist and endure if Beijing fulfills its commitments, including guaranteeing human rights and free and fair elections.”
The legislation would update the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 by reinstating and strengthening the U.S. State Department’s annual report to Congress on conditions in Hong Kong of interest to the United States. The bill would require the President to certify that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous before enacting any new laws or agreements affording Hong Kong different treatment from the People’s Republic of China. The legislation would also allow the President to waive the certification requirement on national security grounds.
Since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong was supposed to enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” and freedoms that do not exist in mainland China. Hong Kong citizens were also supposed to be allowed to freely elect their Chief Executive in 2017 and the entire Legislative Council in 2020 in “universal suffrage” elections. This past year, however, China continued to take steps to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms, including an August decision that would allow only pro-Beijing candidates to run for Chief Executive in 2017. In its 2014 Annual Report released in October, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China “continued to observe developments that raised concerns about the state of democratic development, press freedom, and government transparency in Hong Kong.”