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Hong Kong: Freedom House Urges US Congress to Pass Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act

Image: A protester makes a gesture during a protest on June 12, 2019 in Hong Kong China. Large crowds of protesters gathered in central Hong Kong as the city braced for another mass rally in a show of strength against the government over a divisive plan to allow extraditions to China. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images), Washington   —  Amid increased police violence against protesters in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong government’s apparent intention to nevertheless push through problematic amendments to extradition legislation, Freedom House supports today’s reintroduction in the US Congress of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, and urges its swift passage into law.

“Freedom House strongly condemns the unprecedented degree of police violence deployed against unarmed protesters in Hong Kong in recent days,” said Sarah Cook, senior research analyst for East Asia at Freedom House. “We reiterate our calls for the Hong Kong government to withdraw these dangerous legal amendments that would place Hong Kong residents and visitors at risk of extradition to China.

“A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has taken a strong stance in support of the people of Hong Kong by introducing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Given Hong Kong officials’ intransigence in pushing forward with the amendments, despite public opposition and concerns voiced by the business and legal communities, we urge the US Congress to swiftly pass the act. Doing so will send a clear signal that further erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law, and human rights protections will result in concrete consequences for its economy, the territory’s relations with the United States, and Hong Kong and Chinese officials who suppress basic freedoms.”

In April, Freedom House sent a letter to Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam expressing concern about draft legislation that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong residents and visitors to mainland China. Those extradited to China—which could include American citizens visiting Hong Kong—would be at risk of torture and extralegal detention, which are widespread practices in China.
More than one million Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets in recent days to protest the law, and have been subjected to a violent police crackdown.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act introduced on June 13 in the US Congress:

  • Reaffirms the US commitment to human rights and rule of law in Hong Kong.
  • Requires the US secretary of state to annually certify Hong Kong’s autonomy in order to continue the special trade and economic treatment afforded to Hong Kong by the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
  • Requires the US president to issue a report that includes a strategy for protecting American citizens from rendition to mainland China from Hong Kong.
  • Ensures that visas for Hong Kong residents entering the US will not be denied on the basis of the applicant’s participation in nonviolent protest activities in Hong Kong.
  • Requires the US president to impose sanctions (such as visa denials or revocations and asset freezing) on those responsible for the kidnapping and rendition of Hong Kong booksellers and journalists to China, as well as those complicit in suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong.
  • Requires the US secretary of commerce to issue an annual report assessing whether the government of Hong Kong is adequately enforcing American export laws regarding sensitive dual-use items and US and UN sanctions.

Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2019.

Freedom House Press Release

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