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Frances Hui's Testimony for CECC Hearing on Political Prisoners in Hong Kong

Testimony submitted by

Frances Hui

Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation

Founder and Director, We The Hongkongers

Dear Chairman Smith, Chairman Merkley, and Members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China,

I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to provide testimony to the Commission. I am deeply honored to share the stories of those I know personally who are currently imprisoned for standing up for their basic freedoms in Hong Kong. Their dedication and courage in the face of adversity inspires me and many others to continue advocating for justice and democracy in Hong Kong.

I became an activist when I was 14 years old. I joined Scholarism, a student organization led by middle and high school students, including Joshua Wong, to protest the government’s national education proposal in 2012 and a Beijing-proposed new election method that sparked the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Throughout my time fighting for democracy in Hong Kong, I have met many like-minded, intelligent, and kind people whom I call friends. After the fall of our city to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) authoritarian rule, we provided supported for one another and became important leading voices of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. But now, many of these friends are either behind bars or living in fear because they continue to be monitored and harassed by Hong Kong authorities.

In 2020, we campaigned together for pro-democracy activists at the democratic primaries. I left Hong Kong soon after the election, as I had serious concerns for my safety under the newly implemented National Security Law (NSL). At that time, I was confident that the movement for freedom and justice would continue to thrive in Hong Kong. But who would have thought that all of those candidates from the democratic primaries would now be in prison and facing the possibility of life behind bars? Who would have thought that media outlets would be forced to shut down and journalists would be accused of publishing seditious materials? Who would have thought that civil society would be crushed and that so many people would have to flee Hong Kong, the city we have always called home.

It's been two years since the Hong Kong 47 were charged under the NSL. I secured asylum in the United States in 2021. The words “political prisoners” and “political asylee” are two labels that I never imagined would apply to me or my friends, but today that is the reality.

We cannot accept the status quo. We cannot condemn the CCP’s many human rights abuses without rejecting what the CCP is forcing Hong Kongers to endure. Securing the release of political prisoners in Hong Kong and alleviating their suffering should be a priority for the U.S. and the international community. As outlined in the recommendations appended to this written testimony, the U.S. has few apparatuses to advocate for the release of political prisoners. It’s important to encourage Members of Congress and the Administration to speak the names of prisoners like Jimmy Lai and Joshua Wong loudly and often in an effort to raise their public profiles and put pressure on the CCP to release them.

In addition to advocating for prisoners’ release, it is important to remember that civil and political liberties need protection and monitoring for those still living in Hong Kong. These include press freedom, internet freedom, and religious freedom. While a limited degree of freedom is still available in these areas, the vaguely written NSL has sent a chilling effect throughout society, encouraging self-censorship and further limiting the space for people to exercise their rights. Without a concerted effort to safeguard and preserve these small, free spaces, the condition of Hong Kong is likely to worsen. Additional vigilance is necessary from the international community. And the U.S. should closely monitor conditions in Hong Kong and continue to support those who remain there.