US senators have called for a travel ban and asset freeze for Chinese officials who abducted five Hong Kong booksellers in 2015, amid fears that Donald Trump will turn a blind eye to Chinese human rights abuses in a bid to improve relations with Beijing.
Legislation introduced by Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton would require the US president to list those responsible for “the surveillance, abduction, detention, or forced confessions” of the book publishers, freeze any US-based assets and deny them entry to the US.
“In recent years Beijing has consistently undermined the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and infringed on the democratic freedoms of the residents of Hong Kong,” Rubio said in a statement.
“It is critical in the days ahead that the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong be a vital US interest and foreign policy priority.”
The bill would also require the US secretary of state to issue a yearly report on Hong Kong. However the current legislative session is almost over, making it unlikely the bill will be passed.
When the UK handed the territory to China, Hong Kong was allowed under the “one country, two systems” framework to keep freedoms not available on the mainland.
Rubio introduced the legislation after meeting with democracy activist Joshua Wong, who led 79 days of street protests against the Chinese government in 2014. The 20-year-old chairman of a Hong Kong political party spoke at an event organised by the US congressional-executive commission on China.
Wong said: “Being a businessman I hope Donald Trump could know the dynamics in Hong Kong and know that to maintain the business sector benefits in Hong Kong, it’s necessary to fully support human rights in Hong Kong to maintain the judicial independence and the rule of law.”
He added the international community had a moral responsibility to Hong Kong.
Human rights activists in China and the US fear Trump will cast aside the interests of pro-democracy activists and human rights campaigners in a bid to seal what some think could be a historic rapprochement with Beijing.
Rubio also slammed a ruling by Hong Kong’s high court to ban two elected lawmakers from taking office after they staged a protest during a swearing-in ceremony.
“China’s assault on democratic institutions and human rights is of central importance to the people of Hong Kong and to its status as a free market, economic powerhouse and hub for international trade and investment,” Rubio said.
Tags: abductions, booksellers, China, Chinese human rights abuses, Hong Kong, Hong Kong booksellers, human rights, Joshua Wong, Marco Rubio, US must uphold the democratic aspirations of Hong Kong’s people