Statements by Chairs on the “Political Prosecutions” of Umbrella Movement Leaders

August 17, 2017

(Washington DC)—Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, the Chair and Cochair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) respectively, issued the following statements regarding the resentencing of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow, and 13 other pro-democracy protesters in connection with their involvement with the “Umbrella Movement” demonstrations and a protest against a controversial government development project in 2014. 

“Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow, and other Umbrella Movement protesters are pro-democracy champions worthy of admiration, not criminals deserving jail time,” said Senator Rubio. “The political prosecutions and resentencing of these young people is shameful and further evidence that Hong Kong’s cherished autonomy is precipitously eroding. Beijing’s heavy hand is on display for all to see as they attempt to crush the next generation of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and undermine the 'one country, two systems' arrangement.  U.S. policy must reflect these realities, which is why I am pressing for swift Senate passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.”   

“These sentences are another severe blow to Hong Kong’s reputation as a city governed by the rule of law.  Beijing is actively trying to decimate the pro-democracy movement, apparently using Hong Kong’s courts and prosecutors to further its political agenda. How can one fully trust a legal system that nullifies legitimate Legislative Council elections and resentences Umbrella Movement leaders who have already served their terms? The Hong Kong government may say these are ‘deterrent sentences,’ but to the rest of the world it looks like political prosecutions intended to curtail freedom of expression,” said Representative Smith. “The United States must show unwavering support for freedom and the rule of law, but if the Chinese government will no longer abide by the promises made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, U.S. policy must adapt and reassess whether Hong Kong warrants special status under U.S. law.”        


CECC Statements on Hong Kong:  The CECC has held public hearings and events and the Chairs have issued public statements on political and rule of law developments in Hong Kong, including the cases of the abducted booksellers.  The Chairs have also expressed concern about the growing influence of the Chinese central government in Hong Kong and infringements on the city’s promised “high degree of autonomy,” including through the disappearance, abduction, and detention in mainland China of five Hong Kong booksellers, and the unprecedented intervention of the Chinese government in Hong Kong’s legal system leading to the disqualification of democratically elected Legislative Council members. Angela Gui, daughter of disappeared Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai, testified at a CECC hearing in May 2016. The Chairs have also expressed concern about the Chinese central government’s interference in recent Chief Executive elections and the prosecution of pro-democracy leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and others associated with the 2014 pro-democracy protests. 

CECC Most Recent Statements on Hong Kong:  The Chairs issued statements on the 20th Anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong and on a recent court decisions to remove four democratically elected Legislative Council Members

CECC Hearing on 20th Anniversary of the Handover: The CECC held a hearing “Will the Hong Kong Model Survive?: An Assessment 20 Years After the Handover” which featured “Umbrella Movement” leader Joshua Wong, veteran democracy advocate and legislator Martin Lee, former British Governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten, and forcibly disappeared bookseller Lam Wing Kee

Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act:  Senator Rubio introduced the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act  (S. 417) in February 2017 in order to reaffirm the United States’ historical commitment to freedom and democracy in Hong Kong at a time when its autonomy is increasingly under assault. An earlier version of this legislation was introduced in the 114th Congress by Representative Smith in the House of Representatives. 

CECC Analysis of Chief Executive (CE) Election: CECC analysis of the March 2017 CE election concludes that Chinese central government officials and representatives sought to determine the outcome of the already highly restricted CE election by pressuring Election Committee members to support Carrie Lam over other candidates.