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US House of Representatives Condemns China Over Hong Kong Freedom Restrictions - 2003-06-26


The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly by a 426 to 1 vote approved a resolution condemning any restrictions on freedoms in Hong Kong.

The resolution is non-binding and expresses the "sense of Congress" about any attempts by China to restrict freedom of thought, expression or association in Hong Kong.

The measure calls on Beijing, and the Hong Kong government, to withdraw the proposed implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which has to do with sedition, saying this would reduce basic human freedoms of people in Hong Kong.

In debate on the House floor earlier this week, Florida Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart said pressure by Beijing on the Hong Kong government to approve the new legislation by July 9 amounts to a grave danger to Hong Kong's democratic system.

"The actions of the Chinese regime fly in the face of the promise made by Beijing of 'one country, two systems,' a 50 year commitment that was made to the world to preserve Hong Kong's respect for human liberties," said Mr. Diaz-Balart. "But a mere six years after the British handed Hong Kong to the communist Chinese, we see that totalitarianism has no patience. It cannot stand to see the failures of its regime in the very face of the shining example that Hong Kong has been, of freedom and civil liberties."

The resolution calls on Beijing to leave all revisions of Hong Kong law to a legislature elected by popular vote. It urges immediate elections for the Hong Kong legislative council "according to rules approved by the Hong Kong people through an election-law convention, referendum, or both."

The Hong Kong Freedom Resolution, as it is known, was debated earlier this month in the House International Relations Committee, and received support from Democrats and Republicans.

The chairman of the committee, Republican Henry Hyde, referred to a "slow erosion" of civil liberties since Hong Kong returned to China's control.

"Ever so slowly, the rock of freedom is being washed away by these slow but steady drops. Article 23, in its present form, is a major step forward in that erosion," he said.

At the same hearing, Democrat Tom Lantos said Article 23 would give Hong Kong's chief executive what he called broad authorities that would erase the distinction between Hong Kong and mainland China, a distinction that was the basis of the transfer of control from Britain:

"We can all agree that Hong Kong's government has a responsibility to protect itself from subversion, sedition and terrorism. But Article 23, as proposed by the government, goes far beyond accomplishing those legitimate objectives," he said.

The resolution passed by the House calls on Beijing to fully respect the autonomy and independence of the Hong Kong chief executive, as well as the civil service, judiciary, police and Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption.

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