Floor Remarks by Rep. Smith, the Prime Sponsor of H.R. 3289—the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019

The following are excerpts of remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), prime sponsor of H.R. 3289—the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, during Floor Debate in the U.S. of Representatives on October 15, 2019:

Since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre thirty years ago, I’ve had the privilege of working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle—including Speaker Pelosi—on human rights, the rule of law and democracy for the people of China.

We have always believed that every person in China deserves better than the brutality so many endure and the systematic violations of their universally recognized human rights.

Tragically, under President Xi Jinping, human rights abuse throughout China has significantly worsened including the pervasive use of torture, religious persecution and human trafficking.

Solemn promises made by Beijing are rarely kept and far too many leaders of the free world are far too eager to blindly accept fiction over fact.

Broken promises are the rule not the exception under Xi Jinping and the people of Hong Kong are suffering because of it.

During the 2014 Umbrella Movement  the world saw the courageous people of Hong Kong demanding that Beijing not renege on promises made to ensure universal suffrage, basic rights and authentic elections in 2017.

Despite President Xi’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors—then and especially now, triggered this time by an outrageous proposed policy to facilitate extradition—the resolve, courage, tenacity and clarity of purpose of the people of Hong Kong shines through the darkness like the sun.

Two days ago, Reuters reported that President Xi told leaders in Nepal: “Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.”

Xi’s government excels in crushing bodies, shattering bones, torturing dissidents and filling concentration camps—massive crimes against humanity for which there has been little or no accountability or sanction.

But today we’re simply urging the Chinese President and the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, to faithfully honor the government’s promises.

Honor the promises made in 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that facilitated the conveyance of Hong Kong from the UK to the China beginning July 1, 1997 that autonomy, human rights including press, assembly, association and religion would be exactly the same as before the handover for at least 50 years.

Honor the promises made in the “Basic Law” of Hong Kong adopted by China’s National People’s Congress in 1990—before the giveback—that autonomy and rights would be protected.

Even before the latest round of protests, the U.S. State Department reported that rights and liberties in Hong Kong had “diminished”.

The great young leader Joshua Wong reminded us that a fourth of the population of Hong Kong—about 2 million people—turned out for one of the peaceful protests.  Where has that ever happened?

Five years ago—in 2014—joined by Mrs. Pelosi, I introduced the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.  We did it again in 2015 ,  in 2017 and again this year.

Our new bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019—cosponsored by Mr. McGovern—is a blueprint for meaningful action.

Specifically, the Act:

  • Directs the Secretary of State to certify to Congress annually whether Hong Kong continues to deserve special treatment under U.S. law different from mainland China in such matters as trade, customs, sanctions enforcement, law enforcement cooperation, and protection of human rights and the rule of law.
  • Encourages the State Department not to deny entry visas based on the applicants’ arrest or detention for participating in nonviolent protest activities in Hong Kong.
  • Requires an annual report from the Commerce Department on whether the Hong Kong government adequately enforces U.S. export controls and sanctions laws including those goods and services transshipped to North Korea, Iran or other countries relating to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violations of human rights and narcotics trafficking and more.
  • Requires an assessment of whether U.S. origin items including software, technology and services have been transferred from Hong Kong to China in violation of U.S. law and have been used by China for mass surveillance, predictive policing, or for the social credit system.

What’s the social credit system, you ask?  A ubiquitous totalitarian “brave new world” system scheduled for implementation by 2020 that will use public records, online activity and other tools of surveillance to aggregate data on every Chinese citizen and business and use that data to monitor, shape and rate financial, social, religious or political behaviors.

  • Requires the Secretary of State to submit a strategy to Congress to protect U.S. citizens and businesses in Hong Kong from the erosion of autonomy and the rule of law because of actions taken by the Chinese Communist governments.
  • Requires the President to identify and sanction persons in Hong Kong or in mainland China—with visa denial responsible for the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and serious abuses of human rights.
  • And it contains a waiver provision that helps ensure that our actions protect the great people of Hong Kong and enhance Hong Kong’s autonomy rather than inadvertently harming it.

I’ve heard it said that “the business of Hong Kong is business”, but it is clear to me now that the business of Hong Kong is freedom and democracy.

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