WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today led the introduction of new, bipartisan legislation that would ban the U.S. export of crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong Police Force. The legislation follows documented reports by human rights groups that U.S.-made police equipment has been used by Hong Kong police to violate the human rights of peaceful protesters during Hong Kong’s ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.
The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Rick Scott (R-FL), Chris Coons (D-DE), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), James M. Inhofe (R-OK), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Peaceful protesters are being subjected to state-sponsored oppression, violence, and human rights abuses for demonstrating in support of a democratic future for Hong Kong,” said Merkley. “The U.S. should never be complicit in police violence against pro-democracy protests. As we support the voices calling for democratic reforms in Hong Kong, it’s time to ban the export of U.S.-made police equipment to Hong Kong.”
“The United States must do what we can to prevent U.S. crowd-control equipment from making its way into the hands of repressive forces,” said Markey. “The authorities in Hong Kong have responded to popular action with police misconduct. I call on the Hong Kong police to cease their overreach and to provide timely access to lawyers, family members, and medical professionals for persons in custody.”
“It is unacceptable that U.S. equipment is being used by Hong Kong police in the violent suppression of free speech,” said Blackburn. “Our belief in freedom of expression is paramount to who we are as a nation. As we express our solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in their pro-democracy protests, we must extend that sentiment to reach our commercial sector.”
“Words cannot adequately describe the bravery and determination of the citizens of Hong Kong who, day after day for months, have taken to the streets demanding democratic reforms and the protection of civil liberties,” said Leahy. “They have been met with increasing violence by the police, and the White House has said nothing. This bill would ensure that the United States is not associated with or facilitating the use of excessive force, by banning exports of the types of weapons that are being used to try to silence the protesters.”
“The United States must continue to support the rights of peaceful protestors in Hong Kong,” said Coons. “This bill would underscore our insistence that the Hong Kong Police Force refrain from using violence or intimidation against those who are peacefully taking to the streets to demand a greater say over their daily lives.”
“The growing brutality of police toward protesters in Hong Kong cannot be ignored,” Wicker said. “This legislation would ensure that the United States is not in the business of providing the tools the Chinese Communist Party uses to oppress citizens peacefully protesting and demanding basic human rights.”
“Our bipartisan bill will prevent American-made equipment from being used in violent crackdowns on peaceful democratic protesters in Hong Kong,” said Blumenthal. “I stand with the people of Hong Kong, and support their right to democracy and self-determination.”
“The United States of America should be a defender of democracy and human rights. We should in no way enable those who actively choose to violate the civil rights of their own people,” said Cardin.
Since June, residents of Hong Kong have been regularly staging public demonstrations in support of pro-democracy reforms. In recent months, the Hong Kong Police Force has cracked down on the protesters with increasing force.
As the demonstrations have continued, Amnesty International has documented incidents in which Hong Kong police used U.S.-made equipment against protesters, including:
- Pepper spray;
- Rubber bullets;
- Remington Model 870 launchers; and
- Penn Arms GL-1 Compact 40mm single launchers.
In light of these abuses, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have called upon the U.S. government to suspend exports of crowd control products to Hong Kong. The Senators’ bipartisan legislation would meet this call, and would help ensure that American-made products are not being used to enable human rights violations abroad.