7 June 2023 – Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Senator Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and James McGovern (D-MA) today sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to override his plan to invite Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco in November.
In August 2020, the US Department of the Treasury sanctioned John Lee when he served as the Secretary for Security of Hong Kong “for being involved in coercing, arresting, detaining, or imprisoning individuals under the authority of the National Security Law, as well as being involved in its development, adoption, or implementation”. Lee has continued these actions as Hong Kong’s chief executive.
Mr Lee’s sanction terms prevent him from visiting the United States unless provided with a waiver from the administration. Unfortunately, the Biden administration has indicated that it plans to waive Mr Lee’s sanctions to allow him to attend the APEC meeting. US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said, “The United States plans to invite Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee to attend APEC. As the host, we believe it is important to foster regional economic dialogue for the United States and [the People’s Republic of China] to work together to maintain global macro-economic stability.”
The congressional letter reminds the administration that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 (P.L. 117-328) requires the State Department to annually certify whether Hong Kong is as autonomous as it was when Britain transferred the city-state to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1997. Yet, since 2020, no Secretary of State has certified that Hong Kong holds sufficient autonomy to warrant separate treatment from the PRC.
Inviting Mr Lee to the APEC meeting would violate US law and legitimize the Chinese Communist Party’s disregard for its its international treaty promise to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.
Frances Hui, Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
“The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation fully supports this congressional letter. We urge the US government to deny John Lee entrance into the US and admission to the APEC meeting under his sanction terms and his continuing betrayal of Hong Kongers’ human rights in order to further Chinese Communist Party control in Hong Kong. By allowing a US-sanctioned human rights abuser to enter the US, the administration is telling human rights violators worldwide that their atrocities come with little to no cost. John Lee does not deserve a seat at the table with the leaders of APEC, especially since the global financial hub the world once knew has been destroyed by the Hong Kong authorities.”