Hong Kong people living in the US have launched a campaign urging American politicians to support a draft law on the city’s human rights and democracy as soon as possible.

Last month, US Representative Jim McGovern and Senator Marco Rubio introduced the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 – a new version of the previously submitted bill – to the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The campaign, launched on Tuesday, involves sending letters to top US politicians asking them to co-sponsor the bill. As of Thursday, 259 letters had been sent out.

United States Capitol
United States Capitol. Photo: US Government.

US residents as well as Americans overseas – who are registered as voters – can participate in the campaign.

The campaign is endorsed by groups including the Friends of Hong Kong and Macau of Boston, Nor Cal Hong Kong Club, and NY4HK, among others.

Charles Lam of the Hong Kong Forum in Los Angeles told HKFP that when the bill was first introduced in 2017, there were only a handful of sponsors. The latest version introduced last month has eight co-sponsors in the Senate and nine in the House.

In comparison, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 – which responded to the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang – had 39 senators and 84 congresspeople on board when it was introduced earlier this year.

“We hope that by having more sponsors, it will catch the attention of the subcommittees to bring it [onto] their agenda,” Lam said.

Jim McGovern Marco Rubio
Jim McGovern and Marco Rubio. Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Gage Skidmore.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 will require the US Secretary of State to assess Hong Kong’s autonomy annually to justify special treatment afforded to the city, under  the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

If passed, the bill will impose penalties upon Hong Kong and mainland China officials who suppress basic freedoms in Hong Kong, meaning their US-based assets will be frozen and they will be denied entry into the US.

The bill aims at declaring that it is the US’ policy to support “a genuine democratic option to freely and fairly nominate and elect the Chief Executive” and the establishment of “open and direct democratic elections” of the Legislative Council by 2020.

The bill also states that if a national security law harming human rights is enacted in Hong Kong, the US government should take action required under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act, meaning potential suspension of Hong Kong’s special trade status.

Jimmy Lai meetings

Meanwhile, Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai has met with National Security Adviser John Bolton in Washington DC.

Lai also met with US Senators Ted Cruz, Cory Gardner and Rick Scott, according to Bloomberg.

The meetings came after the pro-democracy Apple Daily founder met with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week to discuss the extradition bill and Hong Kong’s human rights.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong has issued a statement criticising both Lai and the US side.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.