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Hong Kong Democracy Gains Boost in Washington with Activist Visit

Martin Lee and Anson Chan meet with Vice-President Joe Biden.

Martin Lee and Anson Chan meet with Vice-President Joe Biden.

Hong Kong democracy activists gained a boost in Washington last week with a visit to the capital by Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders Martin Lee and Anson Chan. Lee is the founding chairman of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, Chan is the former Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong, and both are former members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. While in Washington Lee and Chan met with Vice-President Joe Biden and with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, spoke at a briefing with the National Endowment for Democracy, and appeared as panelists at a Congressional-Executive Commission on China roundtable on the future for democracy in Hong Kong.

Leaders in Washington voiced their full support for democracy, autonomy, press freedom, and freedom of expression in Hong Kong. As Lee and Chan explained in Washington, these rights and freedoms in Hong Kong have been under continual assault under mainland China’s growing influence in the former British colony, handed over to Chinese control in 1997. Lee and Chan also explicitly asked for U.S. support in protecting and advancing democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. Vice-President Biden “underscored our long-standing support for democracy in Hong Kong and for the city’s high degree of autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” according to a White House statement. Congressional leaders also voiced their support for Hong Kong democracy, press freedom, and freedom of expression.

Prior to their arrival in Washington, Lee and Chan spoke with the Asia Society in New York on “The Future of Democracy in Hong Kong.” In Washington, Lee and Chan also spoke at a National Endowment for Democracy briefing on “Why Democracy in Hong Kong Matters.” Video from both appearances is well worth watching.

Lee and Chan also appeared as panelists at a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) roundtable on Prospects for Democracy and Press Freedom in Hong Kong (see video). CECC chairman Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) issued a strong statement on behalf of Hong Kong democracy: “Anson Chan and Martin Lee are here at a critical time for Hong Kong. The future of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong is under serious threat…. China promised to let the people of Hong Kong freely elect their leaders and enjoy the freedoms of speech, press, and religion…. China is backtracking on these promises…. We, in Congress and on this Commission, must hold China accountable for its commitments.”

A strong statement in support of Hong Kong democracy was also made by CECC co-chairman Rep. Christopher Smith (R-New Jersey): “If given a real choice, people everywhere vote to advance representative governments that protect the rule of law and the fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, association, and religion. The people of Mainland China do not have such a choice and attempts to pursue universally-recognized rights are often met with brutality and harassment…. This cannot be Hong Kong’s future…. Hong Kong is the true embodiment of the ‘China Dream’ and that fact may scare some in the Communist Party. We stand with those who want Hong Kong to remain free, vital, prosperous, and democratic — as Beijing has long promised.”

The future of Hong Kong democracy depends on the support that pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong can raise both locally and internationally. Key to the success of Hong Kong democracy, as evident in Martin Lee’s and Anson Chan’s visit to Washington, is strong and sustained support from the United States.

Image credit: Office of the Vice-President via Twitter.



Mark C. Eades

Mark C. Eades is an Asia-based writer, educator, and independent researcher. Located in Shanghai, China from 2009 to 2015, he now splits his time between the United States and various locations in Asia. He has spent a total of seven years in China since his first visit in 1991, and has taught at Fudan University, Shanghai International Studies University, and in the private sector in Shanghai. He is also widely traveled throughout East and Southeast Asia. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science and a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University with extensive coursework in Asia-Pacific studies. His previous publications include articles on China and Sino-US relations in U.S. News & World Report, Asia Times, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, and Atlantic Community. Twitter: @MC_Eades