Following months of protests, the most prominent activists from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy group joined Marco Rubio in Washington for a hearing to support his bill that would provide for US intervention in Hong Kong.
The United States Congressional Executive Commission on China held a hearing today, which they said was meant to help determine the future of relations between the US and Hong Kong after months of protests.
The hearing included testimony from Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent activists in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. He said explained why he is calling for the US to crack down on Hong Kong.
“American companies must not profit from the violent crackdown on freedom loving Hong Kongers. Co-chairman Rubio is also right in that Hong Kong’s special status under American law depends on the city being treated as a separate customs area. Beijing should not have it both ways,” Wong said.
The 22-year-old activist has had multiple run-ins with the Hong Kong Police over his involvement in protests dating back to 2014. But his vocal stance has also drawn the attention of US politicians like Republican Senator Marco Rubio.
The two were pictured together, promoting Rubio’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act back in November 2016. They are now pushing for a 2019 version of the legislation, which states that it would direct “various departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong’s unique treatment under US law.”
During the hearing, Rubio argued that the United States should be doing more to intervene in the region.
“The U.S. government and other democracies need to hold Chinese and Hong Kong officials accountable for their failure to uphold their commitments. The United States and other nations have options precisely because Beijing benefits from Hong Kong’s special status,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s bill would also push the president to impose sanctions on anyone who stifles the basic freedoms of individuals in Hong Kong, and it requires the State Department to submit an annual report to Congress that determines whether “China has eroded Hong Kong’s civil liberties and rule of law as protected by Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”
The latest push for the legislation comes as thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in recent months, voicing their frustrations with Hong Kong’s government and clashing with police.
Under the threat of sanctions from the US, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam argued that any measures seeking punishment from would only make the current situation in Hong Kong worse. However, Wong took to Twitter ahead of the hearing, where he claimed that Rubio expects the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to easily pass in Congress and to be signed into law by President Trump. Rubio claims he has spoken with Trump about it and has not encountered resistance.
In response, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry condemned Wong’s calls for US intervention. She argued that the current unrest in Hong Kong is one of “China’s internal affairs,” and that no foreign government, organization or individual has the right to intervene. She went on to say that any attempt to disrupt Hong Kong is doomed to fail.
In addition, China hopes to calm the protests before the country’s 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China which takes place on October 1st. Now it still remains to be seen just how the US government will respond to the legislation and to the protests, but it is that response that has the power to influence US relations with both Hong Kong and China for years to come.