WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding protests in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition law:
“In recent weeks I’ve spoken about our nation’s renewed competition with other great powers such as Russia and China. Despite decades of efforts to welcome these nations into a peaceful, prosperous, and fair international system, we are constantly reminded that these nations have their own designs on the future. And in their visions, foundational principles of sovereignty, freedom, human rights, and a rules-based international order tend to take a backseat to power politics and the pursuit of hegemony.
“The Chinese Communist Party, for example, is working to extend its control and influence everywhere from Taiwan, to Cambodia, to Laos, to Burma, to Hong Kong, as we’ve seen recently. The tools and tactics may differ but the goal is the same: Beijing wants to bend its neighbors to its will. Earlier this month, after historic protests, Hong Kong’s government hit pause on legislation that would have further eroded its autonomy and invited more meddling from the mainland. But victory for freedom and autonomy is not yet assured. The bill in question has been suspended, but it hasn’t been totally withdrawn.
“Hong Kong’s people, emboldened by this rare victory over Beijing’s creeping influence, have continued to exercise their freedom of assembly to reclaim the rights, privileges, and autonomy slowly sliced away in recent years by the PRC. Protests continue, and with them, countervailing pressures from authorities beholden to Beijing. Increasingly brutal police tactics and pro-Mainland vigilantes are drawing blood in an effort to intimidate Hong Kongers back into submission.
“Hong Kong’s autonomous governance, political freedoms, and stable rule of law have been a crucial preconditions of its tremendous growth and prosperity. U.S. firms have invested tens of billions in Hong Kong’s economy because they trust the autonomous region’s political climate, independent judicial system, and degree of independence from Beijing. By contrast, international firms are currently pulling back from China due to concerns about corruption, autocracy, intellectual property rights violations, and state-sponsored corporate espionage.
“So, at a time when China faces slowing growth, Beijing should seek to emulate Hong Kong. Not to engulf Hong Kong and remake it in the image of the Chinese Communist Party. The PRC has long been working hard under the surface to increase its influence and power. In Hong Kong, like in so many other areas, China’s used its approach that experts have called ‘hide and bide.’ Hiding their intentions and biding their time. Slowly slicing away resistance. Building leverage. And encroaching, one little step at a time.
“In the case of Hong Kong, Beijing and its agents have overreached. But they are recalculating. Postponing action on this legislation while biding time to resume the encroachment. This is not just a matter for the people of Hong Kong. The PRC’s treatment of Hong Kong – just like its treatment of Uighurs or Tibetans Beijing claims as citizens – is an indicator of how China’s rulers will behave abroad. All nations who trade with the PRC should be watching the drama unfolding on the streets of Hong Kong.
“The world is watching and wondering: If a government cannot respect the basic rights of people it claims as its own citizens, why on Earth would it be trusted to respect the rights and interests of its neighbors, its trading partners, or the companies that invest in its economy? As we all know, the people of Hong Kong have been carrying this banner for decades. And I’m proud to say that here in the United States, we’ve been marching alongside them the entire way. In 1992, I was proud to author the U.S. – Hong Kong Policy Act and help codify America’s stance on the special status of Hong Kong.
“And so, on the 70th anniversary of the PRC and the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, I am grateful the administration and the Congress – on a bipartisan basis – is re-examining America’s relationship with the PRC. I am grateful for the bipartisan work my colleagues have done on this important issue, and I am confident Congress will continue to hold hearings and stay vigilant on the subject of autonomy and democracy in Hong Kong, as well as China’s overall strategy and its implications for the United States, our allies, and the entire world.”