US NGOs Vow to Defend Freedoms Despite Beijing’s Sanctions Over Hong Kong

December 2, 2019 Updated: December 2, 2019

A U.S. lawmaker has condemned the Chinese regime for sanctioning American nonprofit organizations in response to the enactment of legislation supporting the Hong Kong protest movement, while the targeted NGOs have vowed not to cave to authoritarian pressure.

In retaliation for President Donald Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act last week, the regime on Dec. 2 announced it would sanction several U.S. pro-democracy organizations. The nature of the sanctions remains unclear.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate, told The Epoch Times the regime’s response wouldn’t deter the United States and other democracies from calling out the regime’s rights abuses.

‘Bullying Tactics’

“Beijing is using its typical bullying tactics in threatening sanctions against U.S.-based NGOs that promote human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance—the very values China committed to uphold in Hong Kong in the 1984 Sino-U.K. Joint Declaration,” Rubio said in an emailed statement.

Under that agreement, the Chinese regime pledged to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms when sovereignty over the city was handed over to Beijing in 1997.

“[T]he United States and the free world will continue to hold the Chinese government and Communist Party accountable for targeting and abusing Hong Kongers, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Christians, and others who are pursuing their God-given rights,” Rubio added.

Michael Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, said, “This threat of sanctions from China’s authoritarian regime is antithetical to democratic values and universal human rights.”

Standing with Hongkongers “who are demanding respect for their freedoms” and “calling on Beijing to live up to its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration” are in line with the organization’s mission, he said.

“We do not look to the Chinese Communist Party for permission to support such legitimate goals,” he added.

The other NGOs slated for sanctions by Beijing include Human Rights Watch, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Republican Institute.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced the measure on Dec. 2, labeling the passing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “a serious interference in China’s internal affairs.”

The law would make Hong Kong’s special trade status with the United States contingent upon whether the city is “sufficiently autonomous” from the mainland.

“These NGOs have supported anti-China plotters … They are much to blame for the chaos in Hong Kong,” she said, adding that the organizations “shall pay the price for what they’ve done.”

The regime also suspended U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong in response to the Act’s enactment.

The Global Times, a hawkish Chinese state-run newspaper, said in a commentary on Dec. 2 that the sanctions are only part of the “first wave of the countermeasures,” in response to the United States’ actions.

Sen. Marco Rubio on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 29, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters) 

‘Political Retaliation’

The targeted organizations have stood defiant despite Beijing’s threats.

“Rather than target an organization that seeks to defend the rights of the people of Hong Kong, the Chinese government should respect those rights,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told The Epoch Times in an email.

The National Democratic Institute said it “remains committed to supporting peaceful processes and constructive citizen engagement in Hong Kong” to advance the promised rights under the Hong Kong Basic Law and the city’s political autonomy.

Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, said the Chinese regime’s assertion that the organization is funding or organizing protests in Hong Kong is “a sad attempt to distract from the reality of a genuine grassroots movement.”

He pointed to the Nov. 24 district council elections as a demonstration of Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, which served as “vibrant models of public participation in Asia.” The election saw the pro-democracy camp win 388 out of 452 district council seats in a sweeping victory against the pro-Beijing candidates.

The International Republican Institute called the regime’s sanctions “an act of political retaliation targeting NGOs dedicated to advancing freedoms worldwide.”

“This is not the first time the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] has sought to scapegoat others for its own failures of governance,” said Daniel Twining, the institute’s president. “As recent elections show, the people of Hong Kong know better than to believe such propaganda.”

He said that Beijing’s actions will only strengthen the resolve to “counter the CCP’s well-documented efforts to corrode democracy.”

Follow Eva on Twitter: @EvaSailEast
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