WASHINGTON: United States senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton on Wednesday (Nov 16) introduced legislation that aims to take punitive action against those who suppress democracy in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would “renew the United States' historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault”, Cotton said in a statement.
The legislation, Cotton said, aims to establish “punitive measures against government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong, especially in connection with the abduction of certain booksellers”.
The Act, which has yet to be enacted, would, among other things, require the US president to identify those responsible for the surveillance, abduction, detention, or forced confessions of certain booksellers and journalists in Hong Kong. The US government would also have to freeze their US-based assets and deny them entry into the country.
Cotton said the that United States must lead the world in ensuring that the Chinese government ceases any repressive acts in Hong Kong and abides by its three-decade-old international commitment to respect the autonomy of Hong Kong.
“This bill would empower the president to hold Beijing accountable and send a strong message to Chinese officials that attempts to undermine liberty in Hong Kong and walk away from their promises will not be without consequences,” he said.
“Hong Kong's unique identity and traditions of liberty, rule of law, and a market-based economy can be a model for a China that is a more productive player on the international stage."
BEIJING CONSISTENTLY UNDERMINING FREEDOMS IN HK: RUBIO
Senator Rubio met with Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and he praised the 20-year-old for his role in championing democracy in the former British colony.
"Joshua is an impressive and thoughtful young man who, along with his fellow activists, represents the future of Hong Kong - a future that must not go the way of Beijing's failed authoritarianism and one-party rule," he said.
He added that in recent times, Beijing consistently undermined the “one country, two systems” principle and infringed on the democratic freedoms the residents of Hong Kong are supposed to be guaranteed.
“This was on stark display over the last year with the abduction of the Hong Kong booksellers, the required loyalty oaths in the lead-up to the September LegCo elections,” said Rubio. “And last week with Beijing's unprecedented intervention in Hong Kong's legal system to block two democratically elected politicians from assuming office."
He added: “China's assault on democratic institutions and human rights is of central importance to the people of Hong Kong and to its status as a free market, economic powerhouse and hub for international trade and investment.”