Washington, D.C.– Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a leading voice on supporting democracy and human rights in the Asia-Pacific region—today announced that critical projects and policy initiatives aimed at strengthening U.S. response to human rights abuses were included in a key year-end legislative package that is expected to be signed into law in the coming weeks. Most notably, this package includes important legislation requiring President Biden to establish a China Censorship Monitor Action Group, to monitor and address the impacts of China’s censorship and intimidation strategies, as well as historic provisions to strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and a key element strengthening the U.S.’s response against brutal human rights abuses in Burma.
“The ability to express oneself and make one’s voice heard is a fundamental human right—one that billions around the world cherish, and billions more yearn for,” said Merkley. “Passing this critical piece of legislation positions the United States to monitor and address the impacts of China’s censorship and the intimidation of Americans and our companies. With the China Censorship Monitor Action Group, we will be able to create a strategy to safeguard this bedrock of freedom and hold those who suppress and destroy it accountable.”
The China Censorship Monitor Action Group will be an interagency task force to oversee the development and execution of strategy to better understand and respond to the ramifications of China’s censorship of Americans and American companies. In addition to developing and executing the strategy, the task force would create an annual report, brief Congress, and include representation from a broad range of U.S. government agencies.
In addition, the bill would require a nonpartisan research organization or federally funded research and development center to develop a report detailing major trends, patterns, and methods of China’s censorship and intimidation and their effects on the United States. This information is critical to crafting best practices for American industries and companies, the U.S. government, and individual Americans.
Merkley also strongly advocated for the inclusion of the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act (TERA), which was formerly called the Taiwan Policy Act (TPA), in the year-end package. The bill will strengthen the United States’ relationship with Taiwan, including by requiring a whole-of-government strategy to counter Chinese influence campaigns and economic coercion targeting Taiwan and countries that support Taiwan. The inclusion of TERA also advances critical cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan on issues related to public health.
“The world benefits from stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and U.S. support for Taiwan’s democracy plays a crucial role in defending that peace,” Merkley said. “The inclusion of these historic Taiwan initiatives will not only strengthen our partnership with Taiwan, but sends a clear message to Xi Jinping that the U.S. will continue to encourage and support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, conversations, and alliances, and will work to defend our businesses from the Chinese government’s coercion.”
TERA incorporates a number of provisions Senator Merkley has pushed for including:
- Developing strategies to respond to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front, disinformation, and economic coercion efforts;
- Authorizing the U.S. to secure Taiwan’s meaningful participation in International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); and
- Directing the Secretaries of State and Health and Human Services to submit to Congress a study on the ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan related to public health, including the feasibility of establishing an Infectious Disease Monitoring Center within the American Institute of Taiwan in Taipei. The report will include a plan for establishing and operating the center, an evaluation of whether to establish the center, a timeline for establishing the center, and a description of required agreements or consultations with the Taiwanese government.
Furthermore, the year-end legislative package includes critical priorities Senator Merkley has championed to strengthen human rights throughout the region. These initiatives include:
- Extending a Hong Kong export ban on crowd control equipment through December 31, 2024;
- Authorizing sanctions on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Sector, for which Senator Merkley has led the call since the coup in January 2021; and
- Requiring a briefing from the Office of Sanctions coordination on steps they’ve taken to help ensure appropriate flows of humanitarian assistance and goods to countries subject to U.S. sanctions.