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August 17, 2019
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Eliot Engel, Michael McCaul condemn China threats as unrest in Hong Kong grows

Eliot Engel, Michael McCaul condemn China threats as unrest in Hong Kong grows

Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (left) and Rep. Michael McCaul wrote that the protests are “the result of Beijing’s successive violations of their commitment to honor the will of the people of Hong Kong.” | Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Bipartisan U.S. concern over the discord in Hong Kong is growing, as the State Department on Wednesday issued a travel warning for the region.

The bipartisan leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday condemned Chinese authorities’ hostility to protesters and threats of military intervention in a joint statement, warning that should Beijing attempt to use force to shut down peaceful demonstrations, they “would be met with universal condemnation and swift consequences.”

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“The House Foreign Affairs Committee has called upon Beijing to cease encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy — it is Beijing’s actions that are at the root of the frustration among the people of Hong Kong. No foreign powers are fomenting this dissent,” Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and ranking member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote. “It is the result of Beijing’s successive violations of their commitment to honor the will of the people of Hong Kong.”

Engel and McCaul expressed their “deep respect for the brave efforts of Hong Kong people from every walk of life who have demonstrated their clear desire for freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”

Separately, the State Department on Wednesday issued a travel advisory for Hong Kong due to the unrest, instructing travelers to exercise increased caution.

“Police have used a variety of crowd control measures, including the deployment of tear gas. The protests and confrontations have spilled over into neighborhoods other than those where the police have permitted marches or rallies,” the notice reads.

The protests began earlier this spring in opposition to a since-suspended plan that would allow extraditions to mainland China. They’ve since grown broader in scope and have intensified in recent months leading up to this week, when demonstrators occupied the Hong Kong airport and effectively blocked air travel to and from the airport for two days in a row. Police there have grown increasingly confrontational, and clashes broke out periodically Tuesday. Beijing called the clashes “a near-terrorist act.”

Satellite images have emerged purporting to show Chinese troops gathering near the border with Hong Kong, raising worries of a potential violent conflict. Lawmakers have compared the simmering tensions to the 1979 massacre of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square, warning against a repeat.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called the recent developments “extremely alarming” and said that American officials had a responsibility to speak out in defense of the protesters, regardless of the crucial role China plays in American trade. “If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out elsewhere,” she said.

“To the thousands of young people in Hong Kong who are speaking UP for human rights and speaking OUT against the Communist Party of China: we see you waving the American flag, and we hear you singing our national anthem,” wrote House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “America stands for freedom. America stands with Hong Kong.”

Some of the strong language has underscored the delicate line U.S. lawmakers must walk — the desire to express support for democracy while not undermining the protesters’ legitimacy, something Beijing has repeatedly sought to do.

Chinese propaganda has blamed the U.S. for the protests, suggesting the CIA had been pulling strings behind the scenes. Earlier this week, China’s foreign minister accused the U.S. of fomenting dissent among “anti-China rabble-rousers.”

President Donald Trump has so far maintained some distance from the unrest in Asia, telling reporters on Tuesday: “The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed.”

But at the White House, Trump aides have been watching events closely and worry that it could spiral out of control, according to a current and a former White House official.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, have taken a more active stance. In their letter on Wednesday, Engel and McCaul also denounced state-run media publishing information about a U.S. diplomat who met with activists, calling them “the actions of a ‘thuggish regime.'”

https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/14/engel-mccaul-hong-kong-china-1463442

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