Yoho, Sherman Introduce House Companion Sanctions Legislation in Defense of Hong Kong’s Autonomy
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Ted S. Yoho (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Asia Subcommittee, and Brad Sherman (D-CA), former chair of the Asia Subcommittee, announced the introduction of the House version of S. 3798, led by Senators Toomey and Van Hollen, to impose mandatory sanctions on foreign individuals and banks that violate China’s obligations to Hong Kong. This legislation, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, will take a number of important steps in response to a new national security law for Hong Kong put forward by Beijing last week that would revoke many of the island territory’s political freedoms, criminalize “foreign interference,” and ban sedition and subversion.
U.S. policy towards Hong Kong is guided by the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act (1992), which enables the United States to maintain a relationship with Hong Kong that is distinct from mainland China so long as Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous. As made clear by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 27th, as a result of the newly proposed national security law, Hong Kong no longer enjoys the same degree of autonomy from Beijing as was granted to Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law; most significantly, Hong Kong’s right to freedom of speech, assembly, and the right to strike.
The Hong Kong Autonomy Act authorizes the imposition of sanctions on foreign individuals who are included in an annual list of individuals found to be subverting Hong Kong’s autonomy. If the State Department identifies such individuals a second time, they must be sanctioned in the form of property seizures and visa bans. The State Department is also required to identify foreign banks that have conducted significant transactions with Chinese officials involved in undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy. These banks are to be subjected to a range of financial sanctions that the president can choose from. But the second year those banks are identified, they must be subject to every sanction that the bill outlines, including denial of access to loans from an American financial institution, and prohibitions on dealing in United States Government debt.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) complete disregard for internationally binding agreements is clear. The Handover Agreement gave the Hong Kong territory until 2047 to come back under mainland control,” said Congressman Yoho. “By destroying any sense of autonomy in Hong Kong, the CCP has admitted to the world that “one country, two systems” does not work, and it will resort to underhanded tactics and the use of force in getting what they want. The truth is, Xi and the CCP cannot survive with people that have the liberty of free thought. The United States must stand with the people of Hong Kong and work with our allies to put pressure on Beijing to honor their past agreements.”
Congressman Brad Sherman stated: “I commend our Senate counterparts for moving quickly to address Beijing’s unilateral move to impose a new national security law after years of unsuccessful attempts to use the local Hong Kong legislature to pass other anti-democracy measures. Congress must act to support the residents of Hong Kong, and uphold the key obligations that China made to Hong Kong in the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”