Thank you, Victor. Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening to everyone joining us from around the world. My name is Jonathan Fritz, the U.S. Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Taiwan, China, and Mongolia Affairs. First I would like to thank Victor and our panelists for speaking with us today as well as the 19 foreign government and nine NGO co-sponsors supporting this event.
24 years ago today, the PRC resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong. Under the terms of that resumption, as laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the PRC promised to protect certain enumerated rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers and to maintain Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy for 50 years. On June 30, 2020, in a breach of those international obligations, the National People’s Congress imposed the National Security Law on Hong Kong. Over the past year, PRC and Hong Kong authorities have wielded this legislation to silence dissent, arrest individuals for expressing pro-democratic views or participating in democratic processes, crack down on media freedom, and shrink the autonomy of Hong Kong’s judiciary and legislature. These efforts to stifle Hong Kongers’ human rights and fundamental freedoms have robbed Hong Kong of its vibrance and hurt Hong Kong’s credibility and future as an international business hub.
The United States and the international community are following the developments in Hong Kong with great concern. The UN special rapporteurs present have all expressed their concerns with the National Security Law, relevant to their mandates on freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression, and human rights defenders. In spite of the ongoing, systematic crackdown, we are inspired to see the resilience of Hong Kongers in their pursuit of what the PRC promised them: a Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, universal suffrage and genuine protection of fundamental freedoms.
We hope Beijing will realize the truth: Hong Kongers aren’t the problem; they are its greatest strength. To dissent is to show your patriotism, and Hong Kongers are showing that they want their government to be better. If the PRC can have the confidence to tolerate dissent and welcome diverse points of view, Hong Kong will flourish.
Otherwise, people in Hong Kong will be forced to do what people do when their freedoms are oppressed: vote with their feet. Sadly, we are seeing this already, as demonstrated by several of the panelists with us here today, none of whom would be able to safely join this event from Hong Kong.
This event is intended to provide an objective assessment of the human rights implications of the NSL on Hong Kong. I look forward to hearing the perspectives of our excellent panelists.