Human Rights First on Senate Passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act
WASHINGTON – Human Rights First welcomes the Senate’s passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. Enactment of this bill will make clear that the United States stands on the side of those fighting for their rights in Hong Kong. The Senate bill should be quickly reconciled with its House counterpart and sent to the president for signature.
“Hong Kong is staring into an abyss of violence,” said Human Right First’s Brian Dooley, author of the organization’s latest report on Hong Kong. “The authorities have demonstrated little interest in de-escalation after months of unrest. Foreign governments—not least the United States—need to urge Hong Kong’s leaders to take immediate action to calm the disturbances, including having the police respect human rights.”
The legislation would require the administration to produce reports on human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong, as well as on Hong Kong’s adherence to laws protecting sensitive technology that could be used for mass surveillance. It also directs the State Department to not deny visas to those arrested for protesting in Hong Kong, and establishes a sanctions program focused on targeting those responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong.
“Having this bill become law won’t solve Hong Kong’s problems, but it will show those protesting for human rights they have international support, and will remind the Hong Kong government that there will be consequences for its repression,” said Dooley.
Protests in Hong Kong have entered their sixth month and show no signs of fading, with violence increasing in recent weeks. Thousands of Hong Kong residents have been detained and arrested, and the police have been credibly accused of unlawful abuse of protestors. Some individuals espousing pro-Beijing views have also been violently attacked on the street.
The protests were triggered earlier this year by legislation allowing extradition of those suspected of crimes to mainland China. The authorities have now withdrawn the legislation, but its withdrawal was only one of the protestors’ five demands. The four remaining are: an independent inquiry into the use of force by police, amnesty for arrested protesters, an end to describing the protests as riots, and universal suffrage.
“The authorities need to get a grip on what’s happening before things completely spin out of control,” said Dooley. “The United States should play its part too, and can start by making this bill law.”