Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of Hong Kong Legislation

October 15, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 4270, the PROTECT Hong Kong Act; H.R. 3289, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019; and H.Res. 543, a resolution supporting the Hong Kong protestors. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding and I thank him for his support of democracy and democratic freedom in Hong Kong. 

I want to salute my colleague, Representative Smith from New Jersey, with whom I have worked for decades with on this subject, whether it's religious freedom, freedom of expression, and in China.  And I thank Mr. McGovern for his important leadership as Chair of the China Commission and as Chair of the Lantos Human Rights Commission.  Thank you. 

Thank you very much, Mr. Sherman, for your leadership, and for yielding, in fact. 

So, right now we're on the, what, Protect Hong Kong Act as amended, by Mr. McGovern and I rise in support of that legislation.  And indeed the bills that are on the Floor to support democratic freedom in Hong Kong. 

Mr. Speaker, for four months the young people of Hong Kong have sent a stirring message to the world that the dreams of freedom, justice and democracy can never be extinguished by injustice and intimidation.  

The extraordinary outpouring of courage from the people of Hong Kong stands in stark contrast to a cowardly government that refuses to respect the rule of law or live up to the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework, which was guaranteed more than two decades ago. 

In 1984, before the United Kingdom transferred Hong Kong to China, the Chinese government promised a high degree of autonomy for the territory in the Joint Declaration of the Question of Hong Kong, providing for an independent executive, legislature and judiciary — independent; ensuring the freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion; prohibiting the central government, the Chinese government in Beijing, from interfering in the affairs that Hong Kong administers on its own according to the Basic Law; and pledging a path to universal suffrage. 

In 1997 – that's when we were here doing this – when the handover occurred, America was hopeful that the people of Hong Kong would achieve this high degree of autonomy that they were promised.  And, this was a promise that was participated in by the U.K. government.

Today, we must sadly conclude that China has broken that promise. 

For years, the people of Hong Kong have faced a barrage of unjust and harsh restrictions on their freedoms.  And those who have stood up for their rights have been met with a cruel crackdown.

In Congress, Democrats and Republicans in the House and in the Senate stand united with the people of Hong Kong.  If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights any place in the world. 

Since Tiananmen Square 30 years ago, many of us, in a bipartisan way, have been fighting this fight and we have seen that commercial interests always wins.  It's always about the money.  I lost my innocence on human rights in America and China all those years ago, when I saw that while we talked a good talk, when it came right down to it – right, Mr. Smith? – it was always about the money. 

Again, to those who want to take the repressive government's side in this discussion, I say to you, what does it profit a person if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul?  And we do not want to lose the soul of our country for commercial interests, whatever those commercial interests may be.

It's interesting hear people saying, we have to know both sides of the story.  Okay, you want to know both sides? 

One side is a very repressive regime that is crushing democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, at the same time that they have tried to destroy the culture, the language and religion in Tibet, at the same time as they incarcerate in education camps more than a million, could be three million, Uyghur Muslims in China, while they repress religious freedom there.  The list goes on and on. 

And the other side, young people speaking out for freedom, democratic freedoms, in Hong Kong.  They are so impressive. 

Mr. Smith and I have worked, as Mr. McGovern has, with like three generations.  Starting after Tiananmen, tanks rolling over young people who spoke out for democratic freedoms in China.  The next generation, a couple, fifteen years later.  And now, this generation of young people.  So impressive are they that even the more senior freedom fighters in Hong Kong are impressed by their courage and their stick-to-it-iveness.

Today, the House is proud to pass a bicameral, bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to reaffirm America's commitment to democracy.  And that doesn't mean a democracy like – it means democratic freedoms, human rights and the rule of law in the face of Beijing's crackdown.  And Beijing thinks that they can rule because of money.  It always comes down to that. 

Thank you, Chairman McGovern.  Thank you, Congressman Smith, for your work to ensure an honest accounting of the situation in Hong Kong, and to ensure accountability for those responsible for the crackdown. 

We are grateful to Chairman McGovern for his leadership on the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, which suspends sales of crowd control and other equipment to the Hong Kong police force, as Mr. Sherman pointed out earlier. 

Thank you, Mr. Sherman, for your role in all of this.  And thank you for your resolution calling for the Hong Kong government to address protesters' demands and condemning police brutality, in addition to China's efforts to falsely accuse U.S. diplomats of fueling unrest.  Thank you, Mr. Sherman. 

Last week, Martin Lee, the grandfather of Hong Kong democracy, we started working with him decades ago, he said, ‘We fear Hong Kong will become just another Chinese city.’  That means one without any of the freedoms that they were guaranteed.  The future of Hong Kong, the future of autonomy, freedom and justice for millions is at stake.  America must stand with Hong Kong.

It's very interesting that, when they were having – in the first weeks of the demonstration, or the first months of the demonstration, two million people, two million people, mostly young people were in the streets and people were saying, ‘Oh my heavens, two million people turning out.’

And then you remember that two million is 25 percent of the population of Hong Kong of eight million people.  25 percent of the population in the streets and the beat goes on.  And hopefully they will hear from this Congress our support for their human rights.  And that we will not sell our souls for money at the expense of our values. 

I also want to thank the distinguished Chairman of the [Foreign Affairs] Committee, Mr. Elliott Engel, for his leadership on this over time. 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.  I urge an aye vote on all of the above to join bipartisan, bicameral support for the people of Hong Kong.