(Washington, DC)— U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), chaired a hearing on Hong Kong this week examining the long-term prospects for human rights and basic freedoms in Hong Kong as well as challenges to preserving its promised “high degree of autonomy.” Witnesses also provided the Commissioners policy options for consideration in light of the Chinese government’s continued interventions in Hong Kong’s political affairs and courts.
Witnesses included Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong, veteran democracy advocate and founding Chairman of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong Martin Lee, former British Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, abducted bookseller Lam Wing Kee, and writer Ellen Bork. CECC Cochair Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) attended the hearing along with CECC Commissioners Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Senator Angus King (I-ME), and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR).
The witnesses, speaking from their own experiences, stressed the importance of maintaining Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy both as an American interest and an international interest, given China’s promises under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The witnesses also urged the U.S. to take more decisive action to counter the Chinese government’s efforts to erode Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms and the rule of law. Additionally, the witnesses supported passage of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S. 417), which would 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.
Partial transcripts and links to videos of some of the hearing’s key moments are below. Witness testimonies can be found on the CECC’s website. See also the opening statements of the Chairs, Senator Rubio and Congressman Smith. The hearing webcast is archived and can be viewed via an integrated Video Player (enable Adobe Flash player) or on the CECC’s YouTube page.
“Despite a multitude of challenges, Hong Kong’s future, indeed its destiny, should not be sidelined. 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. We cannot allow Hong Kong to go the way of Beijing’s failed authoritarianism and one-party rule.”
“Mainland China has become more repressive, not less…Some have argued that the best course of action is to retreat into a hard realism, recognize China’s interests and spheres of influence and protect U.S. interests. We should ignore what is happening in Hong Kong and shift responsibility to the British or some undefined international body. I strongly disagree. We do not need a new realism to govern our China policy. Instead, we need a new idealism—a renewed commitment to democratic ideals, to human rights, and the rule of law in ways that compete directly with the Chinese model in Asia and Africa and elsewhere.”
“The British Government has not always been…very robust in drawing attention to breaches whether large or small of the undertakings of both the letter and the spirit made by China [in the Sino-British Declaration of 1984] and I regret that…I just hope we will speak out more loudly over the coming months and years…I hope that we don’t let down Joshua Wong’s generation…because I think the most exciting and important thing to have happened is that there remains in Hong Kong a sense of citizenship in a free society which is exemplified by the brave way Joshua and his colleagues have behaved.”
“Hong Kong is home to around 85,000 U.S. citizens and 1,400 U.S. companies. Two-way U.S.-Hong Kong trade was around $42 billion last year. Most American media outlets, including CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and TIME Magazine establish their Asian offices in Hong Kong. These are all evidence that despite all the difficulties it is facing, Hong Kong remains the freest city under Chinese administration. I hope Democrats and Republicans alike can work together to defend the fundamental human rights values they share. Hong Kongers will continue to fight hard against the Communist regime for the day will come for us with democracy and the exercise our right of self-determination.
“I started my fight for democracy six years ago when I was 14. The father of Hong Kong’s democracy, Martin Lee, is turning 79 years old this year, after four decades of struggle. I wonder, if I come to the age of 79, will I be able to see democracy? Our generation’s challenge is to ensure that Hong Kong continues as a beacon of human right and freedom for China and the world. To sum up, today an authoritarian regime is dominating our future, but the day will come when we decide the future of Hong Kong. No matter what happens to the protest movement, we will reclaim the democracy that belongs to us, because time is on our side.”
“Self-determination for Hong Kong means that the political system, political status, and future constitutional arrangement of Hong Kong should be decided by Hong Kong people. According to the Sino-British Joint Declaration it proved that Hong Kong can implement one-country two systems from 1997 to 2047 under the fifty years unchanged policy framework. After 2047 I will be 51 years old. At that moment I’m not sure whether Hong Kong will turn to be, one country, one and half system, or worst case, one country, one system. And what we hope is to let people to realize is that it’s time for Hong Kong people to rule Hong Kong. It is time for Hong Kong people to determine their own future.”
“In a way Hong Kong has been a miracle because it is a tiny dot at the coast of China, and yet, even today, according to Lord Patten, with whom I agree, there is still the rule of law which separates Hong Kong from every other Chinese city. But that rule of law is now under threat, more now than ever before.”
“I just want to be very clear, after your appearance here today our view is that if any hostility comes your way…we will directly attribute that to your appearance here today and your willingness to speak truth before this Commission…I believe [this] should have a direct impact on the way we interact with the Chinese communist Party and their government. If in fact there is retribution sought against you for your appearance and your testimony here today we will take it as a deep personal affront to the Members of this body.”
“I think the [U.S. State Department] reports are important and I am happy that they will be continued because they will then give members of the Congress a clear picture as to what is happening in Hong Kong. Now of course the Chinese government will say, ‘mind your own business,’ but don’t be deterred by that Mr. Chairman because you must remember that when the Sino-British Joint Declaration was first announced on the 26th of September 1984, the U.S. government strongly supported it–even though it was ‘none of your business,’ to use the same language again. It was a treaty between the British government and the Chinese government, but both governments actually worked very hard lobbying for international support. So your government was lobbied hard and gave its support so that gives your government every justification to say, ‘well you wanted our support, we still support one country, two systems, and if it is not working well because of your fault, why should we not be allowed to comment on it and ask you to deliver what you already promised?’”
“I think the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is major because it will completely change the outlook toward Hong Kong policy which has been to let things move along, let China see the value of Hong Kong staying the way it is…I don’t think the Communist Party really can quite do that, certainly not without being encouraged to do so by the world’s most powerful democracy. I wouldn’t in any way underestimate the importance of the addition of sanctions for [Chinese] misbehavior in Hong Kong, it is huge.”
“Our hope is to continue to highlight human rights as a key pillar of our national security and foreign policy…the more a country oppresses its own people, the more likely they are to create chaos and havoc and uncertainty everywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, for the most part, free people who choose their own leaders and have economic freedom—don’t have time for wars…The more of a role people have in choosing their own leaders and the direction of their nations, the less likely those nations are to wage war against their neighbors and destabilize the world.”