July 2, 2020
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Chinese Communist Party’s implementation of a new national security law that restricts the freedom of people in Hong Kong.
Video of Senator Sasse’s remarks is available here or by clicking the image above
Mr. President, I rise today with a heaviness in my heart for what we see happening in the last 36 hours in Hong Kong. Freedom loving people in Hong Kong for the last 23 years have known basic, fundamental, human, and natural rights. And we see the Communist Party of China coming in and trying to steal their dignity and to steal their freedom. They live in real and tangible fear of what is going to happen tonight, and this weekend, and next week.
Yesterday, was July 1, July 1 was the anniversary 23 years ago of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Under that agreement the Communist Party of China made a pledge, not just to Hong Kongers and not just to the British, but to the watching world –and they said that it would guarantee a certain level of autonomy and freedom to the Hong Kong community. That Hong Kong would not be forced to live under the kind of despotism that the mainland Chinese are forced to experience. The Communist Party announced to the world in signing that declaration that Hong Kongers would be retaining a lot of freedom.
Since that handover in 1997 – but especially since 2003, when there was another attempted national security law debated that people of Hong Kong have been holding pro-democracy protests and celebrations every year on the July 1 holiday. And annually on July 1 they have reminded the world of what the pledge was of the Communist Party in that agreement of July 1997.
Yesterday though, protesting and demanding basic human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong became a crime under the new national security law to speak out – to exercise your freedom of assembly, your freedom of speech, freedom of the press issues – is considered an act of secession, subversion, and terrorism. That’s what the new national security law that the Chinese have forced on Hong Kong stipulates. Thousands of people, thousands of brave freedom lovers, flooded into the streets anyway and they celebrated yesterday that anniversary and they demand that their representatives who have sold them out to Beijing would continue to testify to the pledges that were made 23 years ago yesterday. At the end of the day, several hundred protesters were arrested and 10 of them were charged with suspected violations of the new National Security Law. Chinese government officials now seem to be saying that these folks, these 10, are going to be extradited to mainland China and face their charges there. Remember the protests that we’ve seen in Hong Kong over the last 15 or 16 months were specifically because of an extradition law where Hong Kongers were facing the threat of being extradited to mainland China, and supposedly, according to the government officials in Hong Kong, this rule, this intended legislation, was going to be suspended. Well instead it looks like it is in effect connected to this new national security law.
Yesterday really marks the beginning of a new reign of terror in Hong Kong. With the implementation of this national security law, it is abundantly clear that the Communist Party seeks to turn Hong Kong into a police state no different than Tibet or Xinjiang. The Hong Kong government no longer derives any power from the consent of the people it governed, but rather it seeks to rule solely by its cooperation with the CCP’s security apparatus.
Mr. President, we are witnessing the signs of the coming crackdown. Even before the law was signed, democracy activists and lawmakers, including Martin Lee, who is Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy” and a drafter of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, had already been rounded up. Many are expecting the same fate for themselves in the coming days. Many folks have begun to say goodbye to their families in anticipation that they’re going to be rounded up and hauled off into another one of the Chinese re-education camps, or whatever Orwellian euphemism for the new and potentially coming Auschwitz’s.
I am grieved reading over the last several days – Twitter especially – painful and tear-jerking farewell messages from many of these democracy activists in Hong Kong on social media heading up to midnight on June 30th before the new law took effect.
My heart ached as I read Joshua Wong tweeting out from the Psalms, and in particular Psalm 23:4 “I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.” This was mere hours after announcing that he and other Demosisto members – a democracy political organization – would be closing down their organizations.
Pro-democratic parties and pro-independence parties like the Hong Kong National Front and Student localism have announced on social media that they too have disbanded and will try to continue their fight for freedom from abroad. But if you read the national security law that the Communist Party is imposing, it looks like they are going to try to claim extra territorial powers over Hong Kongers in exile regarding freedom of speech issues other places in the world as also a violation of this new, tyrannical national security Chinese law.
Videos of restaurant owners and cafe owners are up on social media and you can see them removing their pro-democracy posters. Their signs celebrating the freedom that Hong Kong has known in the past. These folks are tearing down these signs in their own restaurants and in their places of assembly because they assume that they are likely to be punished under the new national security law if they keep up signs that they’ve had in their places of business and commuting and breaking bread over the past many, many years. This serves as a chilling reminder of how the CCP rules through fear, which it turns ultimately into self-censorship.
Hong Kong-based Twitter accounts are being deleted en masse. Individuals fear for their safety if they continue to use the platform. They fear retribution for previous tweets supporting democracy and accountable government – which is just a fundamental human thing to be able to say or do or talk about or plead for. Like in mainland China, Twitter will undoubtedly become a tool that’s reserved only for oppressors – no longer for the oppressed.
I fear Joshua’s request that “if my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kongers and step up concrete efforts to defend our last bit of freedom.” I fear that Joshua’s request will be met with silence.
I fear we will fail Reagan’s challenge to us that we would be “staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few, but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings.” For we are all created in God’s image and our rights come to us from God via nature, not because of the beneficence of some government.
I fear we in the United States Government and those in the international community will simply move on from the kind of imminent crackdown in Hong Kong that we are going to see that is going to have echoes of what happened in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989, and that so many people just decide to allow the Chinese government to white wash and pretend never happened.
We must not allow that to happen. I pray that we in this body will live up to our convictions and that we will speak out about what the Communist Party is going to do to the freedom loving people of Hong Kong.