Prominent members of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, including Demosisto movement leader Joshua Wong and prominent music artist Denise Ho, testified before Congress Tuesday on the persecution they are facing at home for speaking up against the Chinese Communist regime.
Wong and Ho – along with Hong Kong education professional Sunny Cheung, human rights professor Sharon Hom, and author Dan Garrett – testified on the current protest movement before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, chaired by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
Wong is currently in the United States after a brief tour of Taiwan, after which secret police hoisted him into an unmarked vehicle and disappeared him upon his return to Hong Kong. He resurfaced shortly thereafter with fellow Demosisto activist Agnes Chow; both are facing charges of unlawful assembly. Wong completed a sentence for protesting against the communist regime in June, shortly after the current protest movement began.
Speaking at Tuesday’s hearing, Wong explained that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has the power to use “secret police” in plain clothes to persecute dissidents.
“Secret police is not a term created by activists or created by journalists – it’s the terms written in the current ordinance,” he explained. The ordinance “could authorize the power for the Hong Kong chief executive to appoint anyone, no matter [if] they live in Hong Kong or live in mainland [China] or have any kind of [professional] background.”
These individuals could legally “use life-threatening force” against protesters, he warned.
Wong emphasized in his statement that the Communist Party’s craven desire to impose itself on the world, not just Hong Kong, made the protest movement a key front in the global fight for freedom.
“The present state of affairs reveals Beijing’s utter inability to understand, let alone govern, a free society,” he said. “The stakes have never been higher.”
“Chinese interference in Macau, Taiwan, Tibet, and especially Xinjiang serves as a reminder that Beijing is prepared to go far in pursuit of its grand imperial project,” Wong continued.
Wong repeatedly downplayed his multiple arrests and persecution, highlighting instead the arrests of protesters as young as 12 years old and the “increasingly liberal use of pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets, sponge bullets, bean bag rounds, and water cannons – almost all of which are imported from Western democracies.” Wong also noted that among the protesters were “those who have been forced to take their own lives,” though he did not elaborate on their identity.
“Supporting Hong Kong … should not be a matter of right and left, it should be a matter of right and wrong,” Wong told the committee.
Both Wong and Denise Ho – whose career China has attempted to use state power to destroy over her vocal support for human rights – used the term “police state” to describe their hometown.
“We are now officially a police state, where people live in constant fear of political repercussions,” Ho told the committee. “Police would give favorable treatment to mobs and pro-Beijing supporters, helping them leave the sites after having attacked protesters, showing clear and continuous collusion between police and triad members.”
Mobs of communists wearing white and carrying metal rods and other weapons have violently assaulted protesters and bystanders indiscriminately on multiple occasions, some openly admitting to being members of triads, or organized crime syndicates. The mobs struck most recently on Sunday night in North Point, a notoriously pro-communist neighborhood.
“Sadly, it has become a common daily scene to see youngsters being pinned to the ground, with bleeding head concussions and some even knocked unconscious, but still refused medical care by the police,” Ho explained. “[Police officers] have deliberately hidden their ID numbers, refused to show warrant cards even on request, therefore making it impossible for citizens to verify the legitimacy of plainclothed officers, nor to hold any police officer accountable for their violations.”
“In short, in our Hong Kong today, being young is the crime,” she emphasized.
Ho argued that the U.S. Congress must act because China’s repression will not stop in Hong Kong.
“If Hong Kong falls, it would easily become a springboard for the totalitarian regime of China to push its rule and priorities overseas, utilizing its economic powers to conform others to their communist values, just as they have done with Hong Kong in the past 22 years,” she said. “The U.S. and its allies have everything to fear if they wish to maintain a world that is free, open, and civil.”
Both activists urged Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bill that would economically punish China if it continues to repress peaceful protests and protect the rights of Hong Kong protesters who have no choice but to flee the city. The bill would particularly repeal special economic status for Hong Kong in the event that China fully imposes communism there, as its special status is directly related to China’s agreement to allow capitalism to flourish there.
Rep. McGovern and Sen. Rubio both support the act and lent words of support to the panel in their introductions.
“It is the continuing erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy … that fuels the Hong Kong protests today,” McGovern said, accusing China of “restricting the space for democratic participation.”
“We saw images of the police holding down a protester whose head was bleeding and spraying into the wound on the head pepper spray,” Rubio noted. “We have watched the police throw tear gas grenades against journalists.”
The Hong Kong protest movement is currently three months old. It began in June as a backlash to a proposed bill that would have allowed China to arrest and extradite any individual in Hong Kong accused of breaking communist law. While Lam has agreed to withdraw the extradition bill, protesters are still making four demands: freedom for political prisoners, an independent investigation into police brutality, an end to calling peaceful protests “riots,” and direct election of lawmakers.
Watch the full hearing below: