Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the latest reports regarding the protests in Hong Kong. Senator Schumer called on President Trump and his administration to voice support for the protestors. He also urged Leader McConnell to put the bipartisan Senate bill reaffirming American support for human rights and democracy in Hong Kong up for debate and vote. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here.
Over the past few days and weeks, reports about the democratic protests in Hong Kong have grown more and more troubling. The authorities in Hong Kong have cracked down violently on some of the protestors, firing hundreds of rounds of tear gas at a local university and even using lethal force in a few tragic situations. As many have observed, some of the pictures coming out of Hong Kong are reminiscent of a war zone.
Yesterday the Chinese Communist Party dealt another blow to Hong Kong’s special status, criticizing a ruling by the territory’s High Court that reversed the Hong Kong government’s ban on masks. The Communist Party declared that only the Chinese legislature has the right to decide whether Hong Kong’s laws are consistent with the Hong Kong Basic Law and no other authority has the right to make these judgments. That assertion by the Chinese Communist Party is a direct assault on Hong Kong’s judicial independence. Make no mistake about it, the Chinese Communist Party is cruel and relentless in cracking down on any dissent in every part of China. What they’re doing to the Uyghurs at the other end of the Chinese country, far away from Hong Kong, is just brutal and awful.
We in the United States stand in solidarity with the democratic protestors, who have every right to assemble and petition their government for their rights as citizens of Hong Kong.
The administration and the president himself should voice their support for the protestors in Hong Kong, which would send an important message to the Chinese Communist Party not to get involved or in any way escalate the situation. Secretary Pompeo’s call for calm yesterday is weak tea, not close to enough.
Beyond a presidential statement, there are actions we can take here in Congress because, frankly, I have been very disappointed at the president. In this dramatic situation in Hong Kong, he does not do what presidents, Democrat and Republican, have done in the past: stand up for human rights, stand up for democracy. He’s not done that. He doesn’t seem to care and, as we know, he seems more eager to please dictators than please those who are fighting for democracy.
But Congress can act. We have a bipartisan bill here in the Senate with many co-sponsors, including the Senior Senators from Florida and New Jersey and Maryland as well, that would reaffirm our steadfast support for Hong Kong’s autonomy, democracy and respect for human rights and amend the Hong Kong Policy Act to give us the tools to safeguard and protect Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy, and hold accountable those responsible for the abuse of human rights of the people of Hong Kong.
There is no objection to this bill on the Democratic side of the aisle. We believe the Senate should pass it. If there are objections on the Republican side, let’s take a few days and work through the bill on the floor. We haven’t done much legislation. Here’s a place where we could come together in a bipartisan way.
So, if there are no objections, great, let’s pass it this afternoon. I believe the Senator from Florida will make a unanimous consent statement in that regard. And, if there are objections, I would urge the Republican Leader, who has spoken out and defended the protests, to take a few days. And then maybe the House will pass it, that would be something I think would happen, and the president would sign it as well.
In addition, the Senator from Oregon, along with some others, has a bill that says US companies shouldn’t sell lethal types of equipment to the Hong Kong police that are used on the protestors. I would hope we could find a way to work that proposal either into this bill or maybe we could do a unanimous consent request alongside it.
Nonetheless, we should pass the bipartisan bill in the Senate, reconcile it with similar legislation in the House, and quickly send it to the president’s desk. It would be the strongest action Congress could take immediately to demonstrate American support for the protests in Hong Kong. It would send a strong and clear message to the ruling party in Beijing. It would make a real difference, so again I urge the Republican Leader, the words on the floor he mentioned yesterday were good but not sufficient. Let’s move this legislation, if we can, by unanimous consent. If not, by having a debate on the floor so that the handful of Senators who might try to be blocking it are thwarted and the bill will move forward.