On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the newly named chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), teamed up with U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to bring back the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.”
Rubio first unveiled the proposal, which “would renew the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault,” back in November.
Specifically, the proposal would continue following the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 for insisting on democracy and human rights for that city. The legislation would also make the secretary of State issue annual reports on how democratic institutions are faring in Hong Kong and help “Umbrella Movement" activists opposing the communist Chinese regime apply for visas.
On Thursday, the three senators explained why the legislation was needed.
“When the British handed over Hong Kong to the Chinese twenty years ago this June, Beijing promised Hong Kong would enjoy a high degree of autonomy guaranteed under Basic Law,” Rubio said. “However, in recent years, Beijing has consistently undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and infringed on the democratic freedoms the residents of Hong Kong are supposed to be guaranteed. 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. The importance of this legislation was further impressed upon me late last year after meeting with pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who became the face of the Umbrella Movement for many in late 2014. 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. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms America’s support of the people of Hong Kong as they seek to oppose Beijing’s efforts to erode democratic institutions.”
“The 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," said Cotton. “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. 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. U.S. foreign policy should encourage those traditions, and strongly warn Beijing against any diminishment of those values.”
“The spirit of democracy and freedom are under threat today in Hong Kong, and it is critical that the Senate reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy, to Hong Kong’s vibrant civil society and to the basic human rights of the people of Hong Kong,” said Cardin. “America’s strength has been and will always be in our values.”
Increasingly, Rubio is getting active on Asian affairs. Besides leading the CECC, Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism Subcommittee and on the East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy Subcommittee.