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Senators to Obama: Do Something About Hong Kong

Wicker and a bipartisan group of senators want Obama to act on Hong Kong. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:23 p.m. Oct. 10 | A bipartisan group of senators from across the political spectrum — from Elizabeth Warren and Patrick J. Leahy to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — wants President Barack Obama to speak out and act to support Hong Kong's democracy movement.  

They don't specify exactly what they want Obama to do — they say "demonstrable, meaningful steps" — but note that a 1992 law "authorizes you to suspend trade and economic provisions should Beijing not provide sufficient autonomy for Hong Kong."  

Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is president pro tempore and Judiciary chairman, leads the letter with Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Rubio.  

“The people of Hong Kong have sent a strong message to the world that they want the right to choose their leaders to be respected,” Leahy said in a statement. “The Administration should voice U.S. support for full democracy in Hong Kong and make clear that it is in the Chinese Government’s interest to abide by its commitment to ‘one country, two systems.’” “The Administration should be speaking out more forcefully on behalf of the people of Hong Kong who are trying to exercise self-determination,” Wicker said.  

“Violent attacks and intimidation are the tools of repression and should have no place on Hong Kong’s streets if the authorities are truly interested in dialogue," Rubio said. "Free people around the world need to speak out for those in Hong Kong who want nothing more than the rights they have been promised.”  

Leahy, Wicker, and Rubio were joined in their letter by Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.; Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Cruz, R-Texas; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; James M. Inhofe, R-Okla.; Carl Levin, D-Mich.; Mary L. Landrieu, D-La.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; John Thune, R-S.D.; and Warren, D-Mass.  

Here's the letter:

Dear President Obama: We write to you regarding the United States’ policy towards Hong Kong. As democratically elected members of the United States Senate, we strongly support the Hong Kong people's aspiration for universal suffrage and full democracy. Hong Kong’s economic prosperity and position as Asia’s “world city” is rooted in fundamental rights, including freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression, and the press. The people of Hong Kong should be applauded and supported for their remarkable courage and determination despite extraordinarily challenging circumstances in recent days. The “Umbrella Movement” has shown the world the inspirational power of free expression in defense of the basic right to choose one’s leaders freely. In the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s public threats and the recent physical attacks against peaceful demonstrators, we encourage you to speak out personally in support of the Hong Kong people’s democratic aspirations. The United States and Hong Kong have enjoyed a strong relationship with close cultural, economic, and financial ties for over two centuries. We believe that at this critical time it is appropriate and necessary for the United States to help advance universal suffrage, full democracy, and the rule of law in Hong Kong: · This December marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulated that Hong Kong would be governed by “One Country, Two Systems” until at least 2047. At the request of the People’s Republic of China and the United Kingdom, the United States expressed support for the Joint Declaration as an instrument of international law. · The United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 [P.L. 102-383] states that it is United States policy to help preserve Hong Kong’s unique status and to support democratization in Hong Kong. As you know, the Act also authorizes you to suspend trade and economic provisions should Beijing not provide sufficient autonomy for Hong Kong as outlined by the Joint Declaration. Beijing’s backsliding on its commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration poses a significant threat to Hong Kong’s position as a center of international trade and finance and adds to concerns about China’s commitment as a responsible participant in the international system. Over the past week, the people of Hong Kong have reminded the world what is at stake. We urge you and your administration to take demonstrable, meaningful steps to help ensure that Beijing maintains its commitments to the people of Hong Kong.
   

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