Statement by the Chairs on the 25th Anniversary of the Hong Kong Handover

 (Washington)—The Chairs of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), issued the following statement on the 25th Anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to the People’s Republic of China.

“On this 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, we stand with all those seeking to restore the democratic freedoms and lively civil society that made Hong Kong one of the world’s most vibrant cities. The Hong Kong model of prosperity and entrepreneurship was rooted in the human rights and rule of law guaranteed in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, an international treaty. We urge the Chinese government to uphold its commitment under this treaty and other international obligations. We also urge Chief Executive John Lee to end political prosecutions and release political prisoners and ensure that the court system upholds the rule of law--issues which will remain critical parts of U.S. relations with both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments moving forward.  At the same time, we recognize that the task of restoring the promise of an autonomous Hong Kong requires the sustained effort by the United States and the international community to push back against the erosion of political and civil rights by Chinese and Hong Kong authorities fearful of these rights.

 “At the 1997 handover, the Chinese government promised to maintain the Hong Kong people’s way of life until 2047, but it has broken that promise repeatedly over the past several years, as it unilaterally enacted the National Security Law, revamped the electoral system so only Beijing loyalists can govern, and forcibly closed news outlets like Apple Daily and Stand News committed to freedom of the press. At least 10,500 Hong Kongers have been arrested for political and protest-related offenses since June 2019. At this moment, no fewer than 113 individuals face national security charges and will likely be tried with diminished or no due process protections and with possible extradition to mainland China. As of January 2022, at least 65 civil society organizations have shut down or left Hong Kong for fear of prosecution under the National Security Law, a trend that accelerated in the second half of 2021.

 “We hope that democratic freedoms will again shape Hong Kong’s future, but in the present, we will continue to publicly demand that the Hong Kong and Chinese governments uphold their international obligations. We will continue to seek accountability for any officials undermining Hong Kong’s promised human rights and the rule of law, and coordinate globally with other allies and partners to both publicize cases and gain the unconditional release of political prisoners. In addition, we will work to provide Hong Kongers with migration pathways that will allow them to take their talents and energy to the United States or other free countries.”