The U.S. administration should sanction Chinese officials who suppress basic freedoms in Hong Kong to warn the Chinese regime that it cannot continue to undermine the city’s autonomy with impunity, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist told U.S senators on Sept. 26.
“If you are eroding Hong Kong autonomy, you cannot be rewarded [for] … doing so,” Nathan Law, founding chairman of Hong Kong’s Demosisto party, said at a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which passed the foreign affairs committees in both chambers on Sept. 25 and will now be headed for Senate and House floor votes in October, currently contains provisions that would compel the U.S. administration to impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for the extradition of any individual in Hong Kong to mainland China, as well as those responsible for their “arbitrary detention, torture, or forced confession” while in the mainland.
If passed, it would mandate that the administration deny entry to these officials and their family members, and freeze their U.S. assets.
Law, who rose to prominence as a student leader during Hong Kong’s mass democracy protests, said that these sanctions would “play an important role” in deterring Chinese and Hong Kong officials, especially given that many of them send their children overseas to countries like the United States and U.K.
If the legislation passes, he said, “The administration should take the responsibility [to] actively enact … this portion of the bill in order to send a signal to them.”
For almost four months, Hong Kong has been rocked by large-scale demonstrations against Beijing’s growing encroachment, which show no signs of easing.
Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) indicated during the hearing that he would work on introducing a “special immigration status” for Hong Kong protesters seeking to come to the United States.
Such a measure, Young said, could allow protesters to enjoy the country’s freedoms, as well as to work with “other like-minded individuals in the United States of America who might be mobilized to contest Chinese authoritarianism.”
Law said he believed that Hong Kong protesters would welcome this move.