WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, along with Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA), introduced H.R. 4270, the PROTECT Hong Kong Act – a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives to prohibit commercial exports of certain nonlethal crowd control items and defense articles and services to the Hong Kong Police Force.
“I am deeply concerned that American-made police equipment is being used to violently crack down on peaceful protesters in Hong Kong,” said Representative McGovern. “America ought to recognize the human rights and dignity of all people, and that means we ought not to allow American companies to sell this equipment to foreign governments when we see evidence that it is being used for immoral and unjust purposes.”
“Hong Kong police are targeting their own citizens who are guilty of nothing more than peacefully protesting government threats to their freedoms and liberties,” Representative Smith said. “Peaceful demonstrations are not riots; it is unacceptable to use violence against non-violent protestors. Until such a time when it becomes clear that American products are not being used to repress the free people of Hong Kong, Congress must stop the flow of these exports to the government of Hong Kong. This legislation does that.”
“America stands for democracy, human rights, and peace everywhere,” said Representative Khanna. “If American companies are supplying the very weapons being used against pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, the United States Congress is obliged to step in and act. No American company should be profiting off of anti-democratic, violent tactics abroad.”
Journalists and Hong Kong citizens have provided credible evidence showing that the Hong Kong Police Force has used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, batons, and other crowd control equipment against peaceful protesters in violation of manufacturer guidelines and international standards. In at least some instances, U.S.-made crowd control equipment was involved.
McGovern and Smith have called for an independent investigation so that Hong Kong authorities may be held accountable for their conduct and their use of violence against pro-democracy protesters. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights organizations have also called for an investigation into whether crowd control tactics in Hong Kong fall short of international standards, including the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms for Law Enforcement Officials.
On August 2, 2019, McGovern and Smith sent a letter to the Trump Administration calling for the suspension of future sales of munitions and crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong Police Force and increased scrutiny of any direct commercial sale of defense articles to the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
McGovern is also a lead cosponsor of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (HR 3289) that would require an annual certification as to whether Hong Kong continues to be sufficiently autonomous to deserve special treatment different from that of mainland China for bilateral agreements and programs, and would direct the denial of entry visas and the imposition of sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong.
Rep. McGovern serves as a Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Rep. Smith serves as a Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and is the highest ranking House Republican Member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Rep. Khanna serves on the House Budget, Armed Services, and Oversight and Reform committees and is first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.