Updated: Jul 31
10 May 2023 – Today, 30 Hong Kong advocacy groups and international allies sent a joint letter urging the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee to support The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) Certification Act (S. 490; H.R. 1103) which would re-evaluate the status of HKETOs and potentially lead to their shut down across the United States.
HKETOs were initially established to provide a platform for Hong Kong to promote trade and economic relations with other countries on the international stage. In the US, those working at HKETOs receive diplomatic status. However, since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has cracked down on Hong Kong and destroyed Hong Kong’s relatively autonomous status, HKETOs now serve as proxies for the CCP which dictates policy to the Hong Kong government.
Rather than fostering Hong Kong’s economic ties with the US, Beijing has been abusing the diplomatic status of HKETOs as they use their privileges to interfere in US politics by promoting Beijing’s agenda. As stated in the letter: “Allowing the People’s Republic of China to operate a separate diplomatic office in the US now confers a privilege that it does not deserve … The people of Hong Kong deserve proper representation, not CCP propaganda.”
In February 2023, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced the HKETO Certification Act, which would force the US government to review whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from Beijing to continue to receive diplomatic immunities. The HKETO Certification Act would also require the US President to determine whether HKETOs should receive diplomatic immunity. If the President should decide to decertify HKETOs, the law would require HKETOs to cease their operations within six months.
The next stage of the HKETO Certification Act is for it to be reviewed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee and passed by the Senate and House before being signed into law by the President.
The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation’s Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Frances Hui, said:
"The HKETOs have a history of overreach including lobbying US politicians, spying on exiled activists, and organizing cultural events as part of the Hong Kong government’s propaganda efforts to hide the crackdown on Hong Kong’s civil society. HKETOs are no longer serving their purpose to encourage trade between the US and Hong Kong but are causing unnecessary intimidation for Hong Kongers who have fled from the oppressive hand of the Chinese Communist Party. The US Congress should take immediate action to address the assumed place of HKETOs as additional and unmerited "diplomatic outposts" for China."