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  • Writer's pictureXiaodong Fang

House passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. What's next?

Thanks to the diligent work of our pro-democracy activists, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on October 15, 2019, sending a clear rebuke to Beijing and reaffirmed American support for pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. The bill will also require the US to determine if political developments in Hong Kong justify changing the city’s treatment as a separate trading entity, which shows a strong stance on China on the trade issue.

Photo by Joseph Chan at Unsplash

However, there is still a long way to go until the U.S. could effectively make China improve its practices on human rights and democracy.

First, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act needs to be passed by the Senate. After House passage, legislation awaits action in the Senate. Although some Senators, including Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have shown their strong supports on the Act and on the Hong Kong protestors for freedom, we can not guarantee an expedited Senatorial passage of the Act.

Second, if the Act is passed by the Senate, it still needs President Trump to sign into law. Based on the recent report of his "stay quiet on Hong Kong protests" promise to China's president, there is a possibility that President Trump would veto the passed Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Furthermore, even the Act does turn into the law, its potential execution and effectiveness remain questionable. It depends on the executive branch, such as the President and the Department of State, to take the relevant actions in Hong Kong and China. And the action is not always effective. For example, on October 16, 2019, the State Department has informed Chinese diplomatic missions in the US over the past week that they must notify – but do not need to seek permission from – the agency when organizing visits with government officials on the state or local levels. Compared to the Chinese government's actions on the U.S. diplomat, such as the "sonic attacks", the U.S. current approach towards China is quite soft, symbolic and civilized.

Therefore, we hope the U.S. government could take some harsh and effective actions to deal with China and force the Chinese government to improve its practices on human rights and democracy.

I have proposed some strategies our pro-democracy activists can perform to push the expedited passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Besides, we don't need to wait for the prolonged legislative process. The President can unilaterally issue an executive order to sanction on China, without the congressional approval. Apart from the President and Congress, presidential candidates, the media, and any other influential interest groups and political entities may help to change China.

Together with China Bashing, let's figure out some novel approaches and find creative ways to save the freedom of Hong Kong and promote democracy in China.


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