House Passes McGovern Bill to Prevent Export of U.S. Crowd Control Equipment to Hong Kong
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed two major bills to stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong and to demand accountability from the government of Hong Kong following violent crackdowns against peaceful protesters.
H.R. 4270, the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, was introduced by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) alongside Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Ro Khanna (D-CA). It bans the U.S. export of tear gas, pepper spray, grenades, rubber bullets, guns, semi-automatic rifles and other crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong police.
H.R. 3289, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, was introduced by Representatives Smith and McGovern and requires the Secretary of State to certify on an annual basis whether Hong Kong continues to warrant special treatment different from mainland China under U.S. law.
McGovern’s remarks prior to the passage of the PROTECT Hong Kong Act are below:
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 4270, the Placing Restrictions On Teargas Exports and Crowd Control Technology to Hong Kong Act – the PROTECT Hong Kong Act.
I am proud to have introduced this bipartisan legislation, along with my colleagues Chris Smith and Ro Khanna, that responds to the excessive and unnecessary use of force by the Hong Kong police targeting those engaged in peaceful protests.
I want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee for bringing this bill so quickly before the House for consideration.
The PROTECT Hong Kong Act prohibits U.S. exports of defense articles, munitions, and police equipment to Hong Kong.
Specifically, it stops U.S. exports of tear gas, pepper spray, grenades, rubber bullets, guns, semi-automatic rifles and such defense articles and munitions to the police.
Let us be clear about what is happening in Hong Kong right now – millions of people from all walks of life, including young people, students, women, seniors, entrepreneurs, teachers, civil servants, and workers – are standing up to the most powerful authoritarian government in the world.
The protesters have inspired the world as they risk their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education, to fight for the future of Hong Kong.
They are savvy and strategic.
They are using technology to mobilize, stay anonymous, and organize.
They are capturing and extinguishing tear gas containers.
They have taken down, taken apart, and shown the world the surveillance cameras that monitor everyday Hong Kongers.
They are using art, music, laser pointers, and the projection of messages on buildings to highlight their struggle.
They organized a human chain of over 200,000 people spanning 37 miles.
Tenants in Hong Kong’s residential buildings organize the shouting of slogans from their windows every night with calls and responses echoing throughout the city.
The people of Hong Kong have made their voice loud and clear.
But instead of listening to them, the Chinese and Hong Kong governments have mishandled this situation at every turn.
The world has now seen eyewitness evidence compiled by journalists and the media showing that police have used excessive force and used equipment in violation of manufacturer guidelines and international standards.
We’ve seen the police firing rubber bullets and beanbag rounds at peaceful protesters at close range;
We’ve seen them launching tear gas canisters from high buildings and directly at individuals and into crowded and enclosed areas;
We’ve seen them failing to give demonstrators visible and audible warning before firing; and
We’ve seen them using batons to beat subdued demonstrators and disperse journalists.
In fact, the situation has been so bad that, in June, the British Government suspended export licenses for the sale of tear gas and crowd control equipment until concerns about human rights abuses are addressed.
On August 13th, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an investigation of the use of crowd control tactics in Hong Kong.
Enough is enough. It is time for American companies to stop selling weapons that are being used to suppress peaceful protest.
Instead of heeding international calls to stop the crackdown, the Hong Kong government continues to make matters worse.
On October 1st alone, 269 arrests of protesters spanning the ages of 12 to 71 were made.
Two teenage protesters have been shot with live ammunition and the uptick of violence against journalists has further served to inflame public anger against the government and the police.
Instead of establishing an independent commission of inquiry on police conduct to deescalate the situation, the Hong Kong government has formally invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to ban the use of masks during public assemblies.
This is an impractical and draconian step that moves the city closer toward martial law.
The Hong Kong government should repeal this regulation and refrain from bypassing oversight and scrutiny by the Legislative Council in making ad-hoc regulations.
An intensified crackdown will only escalate and provoke violence and further tarnish the reputation of Hong Kong and its police force.
At a minimum, it is beyond time for Congress to send a clear message that the U.S. supports the people of Hong Kong and that we will no longer provide assistance to crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
I urge all of my colleagues to support H.R. 4270, the PROTECT Hong Kong Act.
Washington, DC 20515
Leominster, MA 01453