Lawmakers Urge Biden to Address ‘Assault’ on Hong Kong Democracy
(Bloomberg) -- Republican and Democratic members of foreign affairs panels in both houses of Congress expressed renewed concern to President Joe Biden over what they called China’s “ceaseless assault” on democracy in Hong Kong.
The lawmakers asked Biden in a letter Wednesday what his administration was “doing to coordinate with allies and partners to ensure that the private sector” knows about the risk to U.S. citizens and interests in Hong Kong posed by a sweeping national security law that went into effect a year ago.
The senators and representatives said that the governments of Hong Kong and China were “working together to undermine the Hong Kong people’s freedoms and to silence political opposition, including through sweeping arrests and imprisonments for alleged crimes committed during the 2019 protests.”
They said some allies had been reluctant to hold authorities in Hong Kong and China to account over the crackdown, and the lawmakers asked how Biden’s White House might “encourage international partners, particularly our European allies.” The U.S. has already imposed sanctions on Hong Kong officials, including the city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.
The law was imposed by Beijing after pro-democracy demonstrations and rallies in 2019. It has had a chilling and widespread effect on freedom of expression and dissent that encompasses everything from censorship of movies to denying some detainees the right to jury trials to altering curriculum in schools.
Last week, the Apple Daily newspaper, a prominent symbol of the city’s free press, shut down abruptly after authorities arrested top editors and executives and froze its assets. Jimmy Lai, Apple Daily’s founder, had already been jailed.
That move drew a sharp rebuke from Biden, who called on authorities in Beijing to “stop targeting the independent press” and urged the release of journalists and media executives who have been detained.
The lawmakers mentioned the Apple Daily shutdown in their letter and asked Biden about steps he would take “to help those seeking to leave Hong Kong for fear of retribution or persecution for their prodemocracy activities?”
Another question raised by lawmakers concerned the possible admission of refugees from the former British colony to the U.S.
The letter was signed by Senators Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, as well as Representatives Ami Bera, a California Democrat, and Ohio Republican Steve Chabot.
The White House had no immediate comment on the letter on Wednesday evening.
China, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of its Communist Party, has consistently dismissed criticism of its Hong Kong policies as meddling in “internal affairs.”
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