WASHINGTON, DC – In a show of support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jack Reed to evaluate the status of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong; sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials and entities responsible for human rights abuses and undermining democracy in Hong Kong; and require an annual review of U.S. economic ties with Hong Kong. 

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (S. 1838) would require the Secretary of State to certify whether Hong Kong continues to warrant special treatment under U.S. law based on the autonomy of its government decision-making related to human rights, law enforcement and extradition requests, universal suffrage, judicial independence, police and security functions, export controls, and sanctions enforcement.  The legislation would also mandate that the President impose sanctions or travel restrictions against foreign persons determined to be responsible for extrajudicial rendition, arbitrary detention, torture, or forced confession of people in Hong Kong, or other gross violations of human rights in Hong Kong.  Additionally, the bill would task the Executive Branch to develop a strategy to protect American citizens and others in Hong Kong from rendition or abduction to China, and to report annually to Congress on violations of U.S. export controls laws and United Nations sanctions occurring in Hong Kong.

“America has long stood as a beacon for liberty and human rights. This vote is an effort to remain a beacon at a time when some want to cede that leadership.  The people of Hong Kong should be free to peacefully express their democratic rights without being violently repressed by Chinese-backed forces. As students in Hong Kong find themselves under siege, the American people support their principled stand for democratic and basic human rights, and the desire to maintain a fair judicial system.  The world is watching this deepening crisis and we urge a peaceful resolution that respects the rule of law.  Even though President Trump has been tepid in standing up to China’s authoritarian Communist leaders, the U.S. Senate is sending a unanimous, bipartisan message: We stand with the people of Hong Kong,” said Senator Reed.

Under longstanding U.S. law, the United States government treats semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has its own legal and political systems, differently from the Chinese mainland when it comes to export controls.  In 1992, while then serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Reed supported the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act.  This law established the framework for the relationship between Hong Kong and the United States, as sovereignty over Hong Kong was returned to China from the United Kingdom in 1997.  In it, Hong Kong was given separate treatment from China in economic and trade matters, so long as it remained sufficiently autonomous.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed a similar measure in October.