Tomorrow Poses Major Test of Hong Kong’s Rule of Law
New York City—Human Rights First today called for the Hong Kong authorities to respect the rights to peaceful association, assembly, and expression ahead of major protests anticipated tomorrow.
Tomorrow marks the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and events to celebrate the anniversary in Hong Kong are expected to be met with dissent from much of the public. Huge demonstrations over the last three months in the city against Beijing’s increasing influence in Hong Kong have been met with violence from the police. And although the protests remain overwhelmingly peaceful, they have taken on an increasingly violent edge in the last few weeks.
“The world will be watching the Hong Kong police tomorrow. They should keep in mind that legislation currently being debated in Congress provides for U.S. sanctions targeting those who commit human rights violations in Hong Kong,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who was recently in Hong Kong and issued a report this month based on his findings. “October 1st is a massive test for Hong Kong’s rule of law, for its police, and for its international reputation.”
There are fears that if Beijing is embarrassed on its national day of celebration it will be tempted to end the “one country, two systems” arrangement with the city through repressive action by mainland security forces.
Congress is currently considering two bipartisan bills on Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act requires the Trump Administration to produce reports on human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong, and on export controls on sensitive dual-use items that Hong Kong’s government could use for “mass surveillance and predictive policing.” It also directs the State Department not to deny visas to Hong Kong citizens arrested for protesting. And it calls for sanctions on those responsible for “actions to suppress basic freedoms on Hong Kong.”
Another bill, the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, would stop the United States from exporting tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray and other items to Hong Kong’s police.
“U.S. government officials need to keep the pressure on Hong Kong’s authorities to respect human rights by passing the legislation in Congress, publicly stating that peaceful protest is a right, and visiting Hong Kong to assess th e situation for themselves,” said Dooley.
The protests were triggered by legislation introduced in Hong Kong’s legislative assembly earlier this year allowing extradition of suspects to mainland China. The authorities have now promised to withdraw the legislation, but that was one only one of the protestors’ five demands. The four remaining demands 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.