By Michael McCaul
Over the last year, millions of people have risked their lives to challenge tyrannical regimes around the world.
Venezuelans have poured into the streets to protest socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro, who has bankrupted a once-wealthy country. Demonstrations in Sudan and Algeria have forced longtime despots from power, and public rallies in Russia have reminded us that political speech is not a right guaranteed by leaders, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, who are afraid of opposition. Citizens in countries around the world are rejecting leaders who rule with an iron fist and are fighting for their democratic rights.
One of the most imminent threats to a democracy today – and one of the largest demonstrations of our time – is unfolding in Hong Kong, where millions of citizens have united together to reject China’s authoritarian regime. General Secretary Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are attempting to crush Hong Kong’s democracy movement, with, at times, violent crackdowns. If this is allowed to happen, it will mark a grave and significant victory for authoritarian ideology over democracy. Hong Kong’s democracy could be the first one the CCP eliminates but is unlikely to be the last.
Last week, I was proud to have joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and James McGovern, D-Mass., and several Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to denounce China’s authoritarian brutality.
We stood together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans united in our strong support for Hong Kong. This is a battle between democracy versus dictatorship, liberty versus tyranny, and freedom versus oppression.
If we want to prevent Hong Kong from becoming the test case for authoritarian elimination of a democracy in the 21st century, the United States cannot sit idly by. We must recognize these events as part of a global struggle between people who desire to live in freedom and brutal regimes that seek to control them.
Xi Jinping is a communist dictator who has made clear his goal is to supplant America as the world’s leading superpower through repression at home, aggression abroad, and propagation of the CCP’s tech-enabled surveillance state. If the party is allowed to destroy Hong Kong as we know it without facing consequences, it will empower authoritarians worldwide.
That’s why I was proud to co-sponsor a resolution earlier this year with Chairman Engel that reaffirms America’s commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. These values must continue to be touchstones of U.S. foreign policy and guide us in further action to support Hong Kongers.
Wednesday the House Foreign Affairs Committee will vote on the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The bill provides a platform to impose costs for Beijing’s encroachment into Hong Kong’s autonomy, and tells Hong Kongers and democracy advocates around that world that America stands with them.
As with other human rights abuses committed by the CCP, Congress should continue to be a strong voice for the application of sanctions against those responsible. And, in consultation with our democratic allies, we should form a contingency plan in case the worst happens, and members of the pro-democracy movement are no longer safe in Hong Kong.
Thirty years ago, we watched the Chinese government lead a brutal crackdown against peaceful protestors in Tiananmen Square. Thousands were killed and many more were wounded. We know the nature of this communist regime and it is not afraid to use violence against its own people.
The protestors in Hong Kong understand this history and still choose to stand in the street and fight for their future. They are not afraid. Nor are the Venezuelans, Sudanese or Russians who are risking their lives to demand more from their governments.
The opportunity to turn the tide against tyranny is one that we cannot squander. As people from every corner of the world fight the global assault on democracy, America must fight with them. I look forward to supporting the people of Hong Kong with important legislation today.