Free Press in Hong Kong Under Attack

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Monday, July 22, 1996

Mr. PORTER. Mr. Speaker, I recently read a New York Times article outlining Chinese threats to restrict Hong Kong's press once the British colony comes under Chinese rule. This information, while extremely upsetting, is hardly shocking. Although the Chinese Government professes to be committed to ensuring a smooth, peaceful transition for Hong Kong, actions by the Chinese Government tell a very different, very disturbing story. As the saying goes, "actions speak louder than words."

In 1984, to help ensure the smooth transition of Hong Kong from British to Chinese control, Britain and China both signed the Joint Declaration providing for the peaceful return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule. This document, registered at the United Nations, specifies that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy except in foreign and defense affairs, and that the legislature will be elected. China has repeatedly violated the commitments made in this binding document, leading to increasing tensions between Hong Kong and China as the July 1, 1997, date fast approaches.

Mr. Speaker, just one example will suffice to demonstrate how the Chinese have chosen to ignore commitments made in the Joint Declaration. Recently, Chinese authorities threatened to abolish the first ever democratically elected legislative council and replace it with an appointed legislature. This action would not only be in clear violation of the Joint Declaration, but also in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

With China now threatening to restrict freedom of the press in Hong Kong, it becomes clear that Chinese officials do not intend to grant Hong Kong the degree of autonomy previously promised. This should leave us all deeply concerned about the future of Hong Kong. Mr. Speaker, Hong Kong has close to 60 papers and 675 periodicals. These papers and periodicals provide Hong Kong citizens and those throughout the world with the truth about what is happening in Hong Kong, and throughout all of Asia. Restricting free press in Hong Kong will severely limit the world's ability to follow events in Tibet, China, and Taiwan.

Mr. Speaker, Hong Kong is the world's best example of the prosperity that results from a strong and vibrant free enterprise system existing under the rule of law. China's threats to dismantle the legislature and restrict freedom of speech are not idle threats. I have no doubt that if we let Chinese threats go unchallenged, each and every threat will indeed be carried out. Tyranny thrives on the weakness of others, and the United States has been weak in its response to Chinese behavior. Mr. Speaker, we must do everything possible to ensure that democratic advances in Hong Kong are not reversed by oppressive Chinese policies. As 1997 approaches, the United States must stand with those in Hong Kong, such as journalists opposing illegal restrictions on their free speech, who are rightly unwilling to capitulate to Beijing's efforts to strip the citizens of Hong Kong of their democratic rights and freedoms.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).