(Press Release, April 19, 2020)

(U.S. Senator James Risch, Official Photo)

BOISE, Idaho – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, and Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s Issues, today released the following statements in response to reports that Hong Kong police have arrested at least 15 pro-democracy leaders.

“I am deeply concerned by the arrests and charging of more than a dozen former lawmakers and democratic leaders in Hong Kong,” said Risch.  “The continued arrests, total lack of action to investigate allegations of misconduct by government actors, and reports that the Chinese Communist Party is pushing for Article 23 legislation, are all troubling developments for the rule of law in Hong Kong.  There is no question that the American people support the people of Hong Kong, and I will continue to advocate for the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kongers were promised, and push for full implementation of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.”

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“I condemn in the strongest terms the arrest of peaceful pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong and call on the local authorities and their Chinese Communist Party handlers in Beijing to release them immediately,” said Gardner.  “The voice of the people of Hong Kong must be heard without fear of repression and retaliation, and we must utilize all diplomatic tools available to prevent Hong Kong’s backsliding on democracy and human rights.  I urge the Administration to impose sanctions pursuant to my NDAA language against all those violating the human rights of Hong Kongers.”

“I condemn these arrests and the escalating campaign to frame legitimate dissent in Hong Kong as a threat to national security,” said Markey.  “By including among its targets a lawyer who helped draft the Basic Law – which offers human rights protections for Hong Kong, at the same time heavily restricted on the mainland – Beijing once again reveals its lack of respect for the autonomy and democratic principles enshrined in that document.  Arresting pro-democracy protestors, including some who are elderly, endangers them during a global pandemic and signals that the Communist Party of China will continue to exploit the coronavirus as a cover for repression.”

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“At the urging of Beijing amid a global pandemic, the Hong Kong government has opted to arbitrarily arrest 15 pro-democracy activists,” said Rubio.  “If Chief Executive Carrie Lam would like us to believe that Hong Kong remains deserving of its special status, then she must lead in a different direction.  The true test of Hong Kong’s autonomy is what happens when Beijing demands absurd arrests, intimidates judges and LegCo members, or claims the Basic Law no longer limits their interference.  I will work with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is fully implemented.”

“In Hong Kong, human rights and rule of law continue to be disregarded, even as the world grapples with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cardin.  “I strongly condemn the arrests of these pro-democracy figures and urge the Trump Administration to use the tools provided by the U.S. Congress and fully implement the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.  The U.S. cannot stand idly by as Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms are attacked.”

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