TLHRC Co-Chairs Express Concern over Hong Kong Arrests
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and James P. McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, have released a letter to the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Hon. Carrie Lam, expressing grave concern over the arrests of several prominent human rights activists and the apparent endorsement of the Beijing government’s interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.
Noting the arrest of 15 individuals, including Martin Lee, Margaret Ng, Jimmy Lai, Albert Ho, Yueng Sum, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung, the Co-Chairs asked that the charges against the arrested individuals be dropped. (Martin Lee, a former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, testified before Congress just last year.)
The Co-Chairs further pressed the Chief Executive to explain how her government concluded that the Liaison Office of the People’s Republic of China is not subject to Article 22 of the Basic Law, which provides that no department of the Chinese government may interfere with the internal affairs of Hong Kong, after first claiming otherwise. Such a reinterpretation appears to collapse a critical foundation of the “One Country, Two Systems” framework, with significant ramifications with respect to the status of Hong Kong and the freedoms enjoyed by its people, per the Co-Chairs.
Co-Chairs Smith and McGovern have a long-standing record of advocacy on behalf of the people of Hong Kong who seek to exercise civil and political rights, and on the need of the former British colony to maintain a “high degree of autonomy.” Last year they introduced the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act as well as the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, both of which passed the House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support.
The text of the letter is reprinted below and the signed version is available [here].
The bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, composed of members of the U.S. House of Representatives, promotes, defends and advocates for international human rights, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.
April 24, 2020
The Honorable Carrie Lam
The Chief Executive Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
Office of the Chief Executive
Dear Chief Executive Lam:
We write as co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States House of Representatives to express grave concern over events unfolding over the past week – namely, the arrests of 15 individuals including Martin Lee, Margaret Ng, Jimmy Lai, Albert Ho, Yueng Sum, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Kwok-hung, and the apparent endorsement by your government to Beijing’s interference in the internal affairs of Hong Kong.
We respectfully request that your government drop the charges against the arrested individuals, consistent with your government’s obligation to safeguard the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, including the right of peaceful assembly. These rights are further enshrined in a binding international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly.
Furthermore, we ask that you clarify how your government concluded that the Liaison Office of the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) is not subject to Article 22 of the Basic Law after initially claiming otherwise. Given that the U.S.-Hong Kong relationship is sustained by Hong Kong’s continued “high-degree of autonomy,” the Liaison Office’s new status appears to collapse the critical foundation of the “One Country, Two Systems” framework with potentially significant repercussions with respect to the status of Hong Kong and the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. As principal sponsors of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in the House of Representatives, we are committed to the continued flourishing of Hong Kong and all the commercial, cultural, and people-to-people ties which bind the people of Hong Kong and the United States.
We therefore urge you, your government, and your supporters to take this chance to lessen tensions with the Hong Kong people, stand strongly for their guaranteed democratic freedoms, and resolutely work to preserve Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy. We recognize, at this time, these are considerable requests, but we believe that a free, autonomous, and prosperous Hong Kong is an important, long-term interest of the People’s Republic of China, the U.S., and the international community.
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
JAMES P. MCGOVERN
Co-Chair, Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission