Catholic News Agency

House discusses ‘brutal, sweeping crackdown’ in Hong Kong

CNA Staff, Jul 1, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- The new national security law in Hong Kong is an assault on the rights of the people, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday, July 1. 

“When Beijing announced its intention to pass the so-called National Security Law, so-called, we were concerned. It was frightening,” said Pelosi at the hearing, titled “The End of One Country, Two Systems?: Implications of Beijing’s National Security Law in Hong Kong” . 

“[The law] is nothing short of an all-out effort to negate the rights of the people of Hong Kong in violation of the agreements made under the ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ said the California Democrat.  

Pelosi said that Congress had long been concerned about the law’s final form, but the text of the legislation “exceeds even those horrors.” 

“The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” she said. 

When China assumed control of Hong Kong on July 1, 1997, the country pledged to allow Hong Kong the ability to maintain its existing administrative and economic systems, including far broader democratic and civil rights than the mainland, and even preserving its own currency. 

The new security law, which was only fully published hours before it went into effect, carries harsh sentences for violators. 

Under the new law, a person who is convicted of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence. The law’s broad definition of terrorism includes arson and vandalizing public transportation “with an intent to intimidate the Hong Kong government or Chinese government for political purposes.”

“The purpose of this law is to frighten, intimidate and suppress the people of Hong Kong who are peacefully demanding the freedoms they have long been owed,” said Pelosi. 

“All freedom-loving people must come together to condemn the law, which accelerates Beijing’s years-long assault on Hong Kong’s political and economic freedoms.” 

Earlier in her remarks, Pelosi praised the bipartisanship effort of her colleagues to support the people of Hong Kong. 

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who also spoke at the hearing, called the law a “sweeping, draconian, anti-democracy policy” and was critical of the Chinese government’s efforts to control the people of Hong Kong, as well as the rest of the country’s various human rights abuses. 

“Xi Jinping’s assault on Hong Kong democracy activists is the latest example of the Chinese Communist Party’s cruelty and weakness. The genocide against  Muslim Uyghurs, the pervasive use of torture throughout China, forced abortion and gendercide, and worsening religious persecution underscores the pathetic state of human rights abuse by Xi and his government,” said Smith. 

Smith added that it was “likely” that the Chinese Communist Party will imprison human rights activists from Hong Kong who meet with members of Congress, and called for sanctions. 

“This perverse violation of free speech and association must be fought with sanction and other tools,” he said. 

The congressional hearing took place as protestors took to the streets in Hong Kong. July 1, the anniversary of the handover from Great Britain to China, is traditionally a day of pro-democracy demonstrations in the province. 

According to local news, on the first day of the new law’s enforcement, more than 370 people were arrested over the course of the day’s demonstrations, 10 of them under the terms of the new law.