Gardner and Bipartisan Group of Senators Condemn Arrests of Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Leaders

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, Jim Risch (R-ID), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women’s issues, released the following statements in response to reports that Hong Kong police have arrested at least 15 pro-democracy leaders.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020 included Gardner’s legislative provisionexpressing U.S. support for democracy in Hong Kong and authorized U.S. sanctions against all those violating the human rights of the people of Hong Kong. The language initially passed in the Senate on June 27, 2019, and was the first legislative response to the widespread protests in Hong Kong. The President signed it into law on December 20, 2019.

“I condemn in the strongest terms the arrest of peaceful pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong and call on the local authorities and their Chinese Communist Party handlers in Beijing to release them immediately,” said Senator Gardner. “The voice of the people of Hong Kong must be heard without fear of repression and retaliation, and we must utilize all diplomatic tools available to prevent Hong Kong’s backsliding on democracy and human rights. I urge the Administration to impose sanctions pursuant to my NDAA language against all those violating the human rights of Hong Kongers.”

"I condemn these arrests and the escalating campaign to frame legitimate dissent in Hong Kong as a threat to national security,” said Senator Markey. “By including among its targets a lawyer who helped draft the Basic Law – which offers human rights protections for Hong Kong, at the same time heavily restricted on the mainland – Beijing once again reveals its lack of respect for the autonomy and democratic principles enshrined in that document. Arresting pro-democracy protestors, including some who are elderly, endangers them during a global pandemic and signals that the Communist Party of China will continue to exploit the coronavirus as a cover for repression."

"I am deeply concerned by the arrests and charging of more than a dozen former lawmakers and democratic leaders in Hong Kong,” said Senator Risch. “The continued arrests, total lack of action to investigate allegations of misconduct by government actors, and reports that the Chinese Communist Party is pushing for Article 23 legislation, are all troubling developments for the rule of law in Hong Kong. There is no question that the American people support the people of Hong Kong, and I will continue to advocate for the high degree of autonomy that Hong Kongers were promised, and push for full implementation of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act." 

“At the urging of Beijing amid a global pandemic, the Hong Kong government has opted to arbitrarily arrest 15 pro-democracy activists,” said Senator Rubio. “If Chief Executive Carrie Lam would like us to believe that Hong Kong remains deserving of its special status, then she must lead in a different direction. The true test of Hong Kong’s autonomy is what happens when Beijing demands absurd arrests, intimidates judges and LegCo members, or claims the Basic Law no longer limits their interference. I will work with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is fully implemented.”

“In Hong Kong, human rights and rule of law continue to be disregarded, even as the world grapples with its response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Cardin. “I strongly condemn the arrests of these pro-democracy figures and urge the Trump Administration to use the tools provided by the U.S. Congress and fully implement the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The U.S. cannot stand idly by as Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms are attacked.”


Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.