CECC Chairs Troubled by Recent Developments in Hong Kong; Say Trial of Joshua Wong and Fellow Protesters Will be Important Bellwether

CECC Chairs Troubled by Recent Developments in Hong Kong; Say Trial of Joshua Wong and Fellow Protesters Will be Important Bellwether

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February 26, 2016

(Washington, DC)–Congressman Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio, the chair and cochair respectively of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, today expressed concern about recent developments in Hong Kong and indicated that the U.S. Congress would be watching closely how the upcoming trial of student pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong and several other prominent protesters unfolds, characterizing it as an important bellwether of democratic freedoms and true autonomy in Hong Kong.

“Instead of putting Joshua Wong on trial, the Hong Kong government should be promoting and consulting him, and his fellow student activists, as the best hope for Hong Kong’s future,” said Congressman Smith. “This trial appears to be nothing more than political muscle flexing, targeting those who dared to stand up for freedom and democracy, and it continues a very disturbing trend. Beijing’s expanded influence and reach in Hong Kong are undermining the future of the “one country, two systems” model. The Administration should do more to help protect Hong Kong’s autonomy, which is clearly in U.S. interests. Hong Kong’s unique vitality and prosperity are rooted in its guaranteed freedoms and the rule of law, if they are further eroded and Hong Kong’s autonomy is undermined, the Congress and the Administration must decide whether separate treatment for Hong Kong remains warranted.”        

“A year and a half ago, thousands of Hong Kong residents peacefully gathered in the streets, yellow umbrellas in hand, to demand electoral reforms and greater democracy. Student leader Joshua Wong was at the forefront of that movement. He and his fellow protesters tapped into a yearning for true democracy. Since that time Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong has only tightened. We’ve seen booksellers disappear, academic and media freedom shrinking, and growing disaffection among Hong Kong’s youth,” said Senator Rubio. “The trajectory is troubling and merits greater attention from the Obama Administration. These most recent actions call into direct question Beijing’s commitment to the principle of ‘one country, two systems.’ It is against this backdrop that Joshua’s case goes to trial. We will be watching closely how it is handled. He and his fellow students represent the future of Hong Kong, not Beijing’s tired tactics of repression and intimidation.”

In addition to Wong, head of Scholarism, Nathan Law, head of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, and Alex Chow will also face trial, currently scheduled for February 29, for their involvement in the September 2014 pro-democracy protests.

The CECC Chairs previously expressed concern about the abduction of the booksellers affiliated with the Mighty Current publishing house and the expanding scope of arrests, disappearances, and forced public confessions of human rights lawyers, labor advocates, and foreigners.

Last August Senator Rubio sent a letter to Leung Chun-ying, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, about the charges brought against the trio. The letter also noted with concern the travel restrictions placed on many students who participated in the 2014 protests which have limited their ability to go to mainland China.

Congressman Smith is also the author of H.R. 1159, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bill that would require the Secretary of State to certify annually whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous to justify separate treatment from mainland China. Senator Rubio was the lead Republican sponsor of Senate companion legislation in the 113th Congress.