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US Commission on China Urges US Government to Sanction Hong Kong National Security Judges

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

11 May 2023 – Today, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) held a hearing on Hong Kong’s political prisoners and eroded rule of law. The CECC also released a report on how Hong Kong judges have contributed to human rights violations under Hong Kong’s National Security Law.

During today’s hearing, Sebastien Lai, Jimmy Lai’s son; Anna Kwok, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council; Kevin Yam, Senior Fellow at Georgetown Center for Asian Law; and Brian Kern, Writer, Researcher and Activist, provided oral testimony on the plight of political prisoners in Hong Kong. President for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, Mark Clifford, and Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Frances Hui, submitted written testimonies ahead of the hearing.

Mark Clifford shared his perspective on the more than 1,400 political prisoners in Hong Kong as well as the experience of his colleagues at the now-defunct media outlet Apple Daily and its parent company, Next Digital Ltd. As a former board member of Next Digital Ltd., Mr Clifford urged the CECC to develop a mechanism between the executive branch and Congress to press for the release of all political prisoners in Hong Kong. He also asked the CECC to encourage Members of Congress to adopt Hong Kong political prisoners under the 'Defending Freedoms Project’ run by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.

Frances Hui, originally from Hong Kong and now based in the US, highlighted personal stories about her friends who have been detained for daring to stand up for their freedom in Hong Kong. She also underscored the legal difficulties that Hong Kongers face when relocating to the US. Ms Hui called for the CECC to support the granting of Priority-2 (P-2) refugee status to Hong Kongers and other persecuted minorities who seek safety in the US. In addition, she called for the CECC to convene dialogue between the US government and technology companies such as Google, Meta, and Twitter to discuss internet freedom and access in Hong Kong.

In his oral testimony, Sebastien Lai declared, “Right from the start of his media career in 1990, my father stood up to China. He criticised China’s leaders… That is why the authorities quickly began to target him.” Mr Lai thanked the US government for their strong support of his father while condemning the UK government for not taking a stronger stance to defend this “shocking” case against a British citizen.

The CECC’s report on Hong Kong judges’ abuse of the National Security Law outlines the conviction of 1,198 democracy advocates in Hong Kong. The report calls out national security judges who have extended the reach of the National Security Law and destroyed the freedom of speech, press, association, and right of civic participation. The report urges the US government to sanction Hong Kong's national security judges and develop a set of robust policy tools to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s continuous human rights violations.

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation’s President, Mark Clifford, said:

“All of the Apple Daily journalists face life in prison on charges including “conspiracy to commit collusion with a foreign country or with external elements” and “conspiracy to publish a seditious publication.” These charges are obviously bogus. They were just doing journalism. Imagine if the publisher of the Washington Post and six of the newspaper’s top journalists were jailed merely for publishing the news. It’s the same situation. The city’s destruction of free media by the hands of the Chinese Communist Party should be a warning to people everywhere that media freedom is fragile and at risk.”

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation’s Policy and Advocacy Coordinator, Frances Hui, said:

“The dedication and courage of Hong Kong’s political prisoners in the face of adversity inspires me and many others to continue advocating for justice and democracy in Hong Kong. We cannot accept the status quo. We cannot condemn the Chinese Communist Party’s many human rights abuses without rejecting what the Chinese Communist Party 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 US and the international community.”

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