'This is a plea for democracy': HK protest leaders urge US lawmakers to take action

Joshua Wong, Denise Ho testify before US congressmen, call for passage of Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act

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Joshua Wong testifies in Washington D.C. Sept. 17 (Taken from Congressional-Executive Commission on China livestream)
Denise Ho (From Congressional-Executive Commission on China livestream)

Joshua Wong testifies in Washington D.C. Sept. 17 (Taken from Congressional-Executive Commission on China livestream)

Denise Ho (From Congressional-Executive Commission on China livestream)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Pro-democracy Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong and Denise Ho testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday (Sept. 17), pleading with lawmakers to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would impose consequences on China in the case of a brutal crackdown and further erosion of the city's autonomy.

Two of the most visible faces of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, Joshua Wong and Cantonese pop star Denise Ho, met a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. They spoke out about the deteriorating freedoms in Hong Kong and lobbied for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The hearing, entitled "Hong Kong's Summer of Discontent and U.S. Policy Responses," was held by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and presided over by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

In his opening remarks, McGovern lauded Hongkongers as an inspiration to the world for risking their education, jobs, and even lives in the tireless resistance. Condemning Hong Kong authorities' vicious response to the protests, he asserted that U.S. companies should not be abetting police's use of excessive force by exporting crowd-control equipment such as tear gas, a position reflected in the PROTECT Hong Kong Act he and Rep. Smith jointly authored.

Senator Rubio, a co-sponsor of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, called the protests "one of the greatest people power movements we have witnessed in recent memory." He went on slam Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam over her refusal to heed millions of Hongkongers and singled out brutal acts of violence that police either perpetrated or were complicit in through inaction.

Rubio expressed outraged over reports of police officers spraying pepper spray onto the head wound of a downed protester. The senator also mentioned the pro-Beijing thugs who have since July been indiscriminately attacking the city's residents while police stood by and did nothing.

According to Rubio, the preservation of the "one country, two systems" framework agreed to by China prior to Hong Kong's 1997 handover is important to American interests. He said a response to the erosion of this system was "long overdue," warning China that, "Escalating aggression will lead [China] to face real consequences, not just from the United States but from the free world."

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Representative Smith said that Hong Kong's people have put a spotlight on what he called "Beijing's pernicious, repressive behavior" and cited additional instances of China's human rights abuses and malign influence in Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang province. The congressman expressed incredulity over the opposition of U.S. diplomats, so-called experts, and business leaders against substantive legislation against the communist regime.

Smith also stressed the importance of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would not only make Hong Kong's special economic status contingent on an annual State Department report on the state of Hong Kong's autonomy but would also require the president to sanction China and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights violations in the city.

In his statement to the lawmakers, Joshua Wong remarked that instead of "one country, two systems," the semi-autonomous region is fast approaching a reality of "one country, one system."

The 22-year-old Demosisto leader praised the Protect Hong Kong Act and noted that most of the tear gas, bean bag rounds, and other equipment used by Hong Kong police had been imported from Western democratic states. Companies should not benefit from the crackdown on Hong Kong people, said Wong.

As for Hong Kong's special financial status, Wong said, "Beijing should not have it both ways ​​​​​​​ reaping all the economic benefits of Hong Kong's standing in the world while [eroding] our freedom." He then called on Congress to stand on the right side of "human rights and democracy."

Singer-turned-activist Denise Ho joined Wong in demanding swift action from the United States. Ho, herself blacklisted in China for her anti-CCP views, pointed to its no-tolerance policy toward dissent, with celebrities from Hong Kong and Taiwan under pressure to do lip service to "unanimous support" to the communist government in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

Ho warned that China is already exporting its brand of censorship to other countries. If Hong Kong is suppressed, she cautioned, it could "become a springboard" for the country to spread its agenda throughout the world.

"This is a plea for democracy," Ho urged. "This is a plea for the freedom to choose."