WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered a statement on the Senate Floor tonight in support of a request for the Senate to immediately pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Joined by a group of colleagues, Menendez requested a live Unanimous Consent for the Senate to adopt the bipartisan legislation reaffirming the United States’ commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Below are Senator Menendez’s remarks as delivered:
I rise in support of the motion that will shortly be made by our colleague from Florida. I want to congratulate Senator Cardin and him for their leadership in this regard. I appreciate the Chairman and myself, having joined them, in moving this expeditiously through the Committee, and I’m looking forward to its critical passage on the floor. Time is of the essence.
The people of Hong Kong are fighting for their lives. Six months ago, millions of Hong Kong’s citizens took to the streets to peacefully protest the erosion of their democracy and their rights.
Now, a half a year later, we find mounting anger and unrest, with the violence against students and protesters – most dramatically in the crackdown at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University – only getting worse.
People are being shot. Universities are being burned. The violence perpetrated by the authorities in Hong Kong, and by extension, Beijing, are turning the city into a battlefield. That is not the Hong Kong that any of us want to see.
The special character of Hong Kong is one of the world’s great success stories. The vibrancy of the people of Hong Kong, especially the young people and the rising generation of leaders standing up for democracy and self-governance should inspire all of us.
We admire Hong Kong’s success as a burgeoning economic powerhouse. And we admire the vibrant and autonomous civil society and civic life that has flourished under the “one country, two systems” principle. Hong Kong is one of the remarkable success stories of the Indo-Pacific. One of the remarkable success stories of the China and the Chinese people. And it is a success worth protecting.
So I call on the police to act professionally and to treat its fellow citizens with respect and restraint. And I call for Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities to address the noble and legitimate aspirations of the people of Hong Kong.
In these turbulent times, the Congress of the United States must lead with our values. We must stand on the side of freedom and human dignity. And we must send a clear and uncompromising statement that America stands with the people of Hong Kong in their quest to maintain their self-governance and autonomy, to safeguard their human rights, to exercise their democratic freedom, to determine their own future.
The House of Representatives have already passed their version of this bill. And the situation in Hong Kong grows more tenuous by the day. That is why the United States Senate must act today.
I look forward to seeing its passage without delay. Let us work to hold China accountable for the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong. And let us together send a message to the people of Hong Kong that their cries for democracy and freedom have been heard throughout both chambers of the U.S. Congress, and that America stands with them in their call for justice and self-determination.