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US Congress resolution to support Hong Kong autonomy
The Epoch Times
4/24/2004



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Senator Sam Brownback (R- Kansas) has introduced a resolution in the US Congress seeking a declaration that the people of Hong Kong should be free to decide the pace of democratic reform in the former British-ruled territory.

"A clear message emerges from everyone with whom I have spoken on this issue: Hong Kong is ready for full democracy," said Senator Brownback, who introduced the resolution this week.

"The people have demonstrated the ability to create a vibrant society and they deserve universal suffrage and the ability to participate fully in the functions of government," he said.

Hong Kong’s citizens, and much of its government, have been seeking the right to directly elect all members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and also its Chief Executive. At present, most of the Legislative Council is chosen by a few hand-picked legislators who follow orders from Beijing.

Recently, the Chinese National People's Congress Standing Committee announced that according to its interpretation of the Hong Kong constitution, Hong Kong’s government has no fixed power, and any modifications to the form of government must come from Beijing.

"The right to amend the law belongs to the National People's Congress," said Qiao Xiaoyang, deputy secretary-general of the NPC Standing Committee.

This legislation was the first-ever mainland ruling on Hong Kong's electoral process set out under the Basic Law, the territory's mini-constitution enforced since the transfer of sovereignty to communist China after 156 years of British rule.

Hong Kong was guaranteed a high degree of autonomy from China for 50 years as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). However, China has been attempting to tighten its grip on the former British Colony, fearing that Hong Kong residents, accustomed to freedom, will not willingly accept totalitarian rule.

Some 500,000 Hong Kong residents took to the streets on July 1 of last year to seek a more effective representative government- the largest demonstration seen there in 14 years. The demonstrators were protesting China’s enforced ‘Article 23’ legislation, which would have given the Beijing government the right to imprison people it found to be guilty of “subversion;” a blanket term that could be applied to democracy advocates, labor union leaders, or Falun Gong practitioners- all groups that are legal under Hong Kong law and brutally persecuted within China.

The Hong Kong government was forced to abandon the legislation in the face of public outcry. China fears that Hong Kong will continue to progress towards freedom and democracy if unchecked.

Senator Brownback's resolution says the US Congress should declare "that the people of Hong Kong should be free to determine the pace and scope of constitutional developments" and that “the continued lack of a fully democratically elected legislature in Hong Kong constitutes a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984,” signed in Beijing.

Senator Brownback is chairman of the East Asia sub-panel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which held a hearing last month on democracy in Hong Kong in which Martin Lee, a top democracy advocate from the island, testified.

The Chinese government spoke out against letting the Hong Kong lawmaker testify, and warned the United States not to meddle in Hong Kong's political affairs. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Jianchao said what happens in Hong Kong is not Washington's concern. Mr. Liu further stated that Hong Kong affairs are internal matters, and China opposes interference in internal matters.

Senator Brownback’s resolution quotes the State Department’s U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act Report which states that “The United States has strong interests in the protection of human rights and the promotion of democratic institutions throughout the world. The Hong Kong people share many values and interests with Americans and have worked to make Hong Kong a model of what can be achieved in a society based on the rule of law and respect for civil liberties.”

The United States is Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner. More than 50,000 American citizens live and work in Hong Kong, and 1,100 American firms operate there.

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