Asia Research Institute

The 'US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act' to the rescue? - Dr Andreas Fulda quoted in Washington Post


Dr Andreas Fulda being interviewed on Al Jazeera

On Sunday, 8 September 2019 Hong Kongers staged a mass demonstration and called for the passing of the US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bicameral and bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ). 

Andreas provided commentary to the Washington Post and put the pro-US demonstration in relation to the previous declaration by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam to formally withdraw the proposed extradition bill. 

The Washington Post reported that "(her) move to fully withdraw the bill 'was a public relations exercise vis-a-vis Beijing and Washington' said Andreas Fulda, the author of a book on efforts at democratization in China and a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute. 'Carrie Lam has every reason to be worried about a strong U.S. response' when Congress sits again, he said."

The Washington Post report further quoted Andreas stating that "'(they) think that this is perhaps a tactical retreat and a way to pacify the movement, but it is so evident that it doesn't address the elephant in the room, which is the militarization of the Hong Kong Police Force,' he added."

Why does this particular piece of US legislation matter in relation to the popular uprising in Hong Kong? Once enacted, the US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would allow the US administration to: 

  • Reaffirm the principles set forth in the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, including support for democratization, human rights, and the importance of Hong Kong remaining sufficiently autonomous from China to justify different treatment under U.S. law.
  • Reinstate the requirement for the Secretary of State to issue a report on conditions in Hong Kong of interest to the United States, including developments related to democratic institutions in Hong Kong, no later than 90 days after enactment and every year through 2023.
  • Require the Secretary of State to certify that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous before enacting any new laws or agreements affording Hong Kong different treatment from the People's Republic of China. 
  • Require the President to identify persons responsible for the surveillance, abduction, detention, or forced confessions of certain booksellers and journalists in Hong Kong, and other actions suppressing basic freedoms, and to freeze their U.S.-based assets and deny them entry into the U.S.
  • Make clear that visa applicants who resided in Hong Kong in 2014 shall not be denied visas on the basis of the applicant's arrest, detention or other adverse government action taken as a result of their participation in the nonviolent protest activities related to Hong Kong's electoral process.

Source: Tom Cotton (2016), Cotton, Rubio Introduce Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, Available online (accessed 9 September 2019). 

In early July Andreas had started engaging with foreign policy makers in the UK and made the public case that the British government should emulate the US Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. 

In his op-ed for The Conversation from 8th July 2019 Andreas outlined that "(by) adopting a similarly assertive stance the next British government could put considerable pressure on pro-Beijing politicians such as Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam. While she renounced British citizenship in 2007, her family members continue to enjoy British citizenship and her husband and one of her sons lives in the UK. A British version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act could provide a major disincentive for Lam and the Hong Kong government to escalate the crisis even further."

Andreas has also provided written testimony to Mr Tom Tugendhat MP, Chairman of the UK Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. 

And in another Washington Post report from Friday, 6 September 2019 Andreas was once again quoted with commentary on the possible political contagion from Hong Kong to mainland China. 

The second Washington Post report cited him as follows: "Andreas Fulda, the author of a book on efforts at democratization in China and a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham's Asia Research Institute, said voices like Chen's are 'not being heard.' 'But we shouldn't think that these voices do not exist."

Andreas has provided further reflections about the issue of political contagion in a related Twitter thread, which was read over 15,000 times. 

And over the weekend Andreas has also appeared on Al Jazeera's Inside Story "What do protesters in Hong Kong want now?". 

On the increasing conflict between the central government and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong Andreas stated that "it's important to remind our viewers that it was Beijing that was changing the status quo. So for example the 'One Country, Two Systems' formula, in theory could perhaps work. However, over the years they have done a lot to transition towards what we see now, which is a beta version of 'One Country, One System'. And since this relates to the rule of law (...) the Hong Kongers are not willing to give up their rule of law and replace it with mainland Chinese rule by law. They don't want to live in fear, but that is exactly the kind of direction of travel. And therefore I think Beijing has really miscalculated. They thought they could turn Hong Kong into just another mainland Chinese city. But I think they are realising that this is not going to happen." 

The Al Jazeera Inside Story episode is available on YouTube. It has already amassed 88,000 views. 

Posted on Tuesday 10th September 2019

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