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U.S. Congress introduces first-ever sanctions bill targeting Hong Kong judges and prosecutors

2 November 2023 – Today, a bipartisan and bicameral group of lawmakers led by Congresswoman Young Kim (R-CA-40) introduced the Hong Kong Sanctions Act. The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation (CFHK Foundation) spearheaded this effort that would lead to the sanctioning of Hong Kong officials who have played an active and chief role in undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong.

The bill would require the President to determine within 180 days of its passage whether a list of Hong Kong officials included in the bill qualify for sanctions under existing U.S. legislation including the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and the President’s Executive Order on Hong Kong Normalization.

The list of Hong Kong officials includes a cross-section of 49 officials, judges and prosecutors at all levels responsible for the ongoing political persecution of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists. Some egregious offenders on the list include:

  • Justice Secretary Paul Lam Ting-kwok, who was appointed in June 2022 to oversee all dissident prosecutions. He has repeatedly leveraged the National Security Law to deny trials by jury to political defendants.

  • Hong Kong High Court Judge Esther Tho Lye-Ping, who has unjustly imprisoned or denied bail to a wide range of political defendants including pro-democracy legislators, journalists, activists and an American lawyer.

  • District Judge Stanley Chan, who is currently overseeing the trial against seven innocent victims of pro-government violence for “rioting” in the Yuen Long metro station in July 2019. He has given jail sentences to dozens of political activists for “sedition” and “rioting”.

  • District Judge Kwok Wai-Kin, who praised a man for stabbing three peaceful pro-democracy protesters. He also convicted five union members for publishing a children’s book about sheep and wolves as a political allegory.

  • Memi Ng, a private barrister frequently hired by the Hong Kong Department of Justice to prosecute political cases, including against pro-democracy leaders such as Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam; American lawyer Sam Bickett; and a wide range of protesters for “rioting” and “unlawful assembly”.

In May 2023, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China released a report, titled, ‘One City, Two Legal Systems: Hong Kong Judges’ Role in Rights Violations under the National Security Law’ on how Hong Kong judges have contributed to human rights violations under the National Security Law. This bill would be the next step to targeting Beijing’s ongoing exploitation of its puppet government in Hong Kong.

Congresswoman Young Kim said:

“Jimmy Lai’s case is unfortunately just the latest example of Beijing exploiting its ‘national security law’ to exert control of Hong Kongers. I am proud to lead the Hong Kong Sanctions Act so the United States can take strong, decisive action to support the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong and hold officials accountable in violation of human rights.”

Frances Hui, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the CFHK Foundation, said:

“A great number of judges and prosecutors in Hong Kong play crucial and active roles in undermining the rule of law and enabling the arbitrarily jailing over a thousand political prisoners in the city. The U.S. already has its own tools to take concrete action to hold these individuals accountable for their human rights violations, but it needs to do a better job with implementation. The Hong Kong Sanctions Act would demand the administration to do just that in a swift manner at its disposal.”

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