Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and the Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC)—secured a series of crucial provisions in today’s SFRC Strategic Competition Act markup that will help ensure that American advocacy for human rights and democracy remains a centerpiece of the United States’ relationship with China.
“The U.S. relationship with China will define the world for years to come, and as we navigate that relationship, our values of freedom and democracy must be paramount. We must stand with the people of Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities, far too many of whom are being brutally silenced, intimidated, or killed by the Chinese government,” said Merkley. “That’s why I am working to ensure that the Strategic Competition Act supports pro-democracy and pro-human rights groups, requires a U.S. strategy to respond to sharp power operations targeting Taiwan, and supports work with our partners in South and Central Asia to protect ethnic minorities fleeing persecution in China, and more.”
Specific provisions authored and advocated for by Merkley that will be included in the Strategic Competition Act include:
- Sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for forced labor in Xinjiang, as called for by the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, introduced by Merkley and Senator Marco Rubio;
- Bipartisan Merkley-Rubio legislation to combat Chinese government censorship and intimidation of Americans and U.S. companies, including economic coercion;
- Promoting responsible, low-carbon economic development alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative;
- Requiring reporting on the personnel and expertise required to effectively engage the People’s Republic of China in strategic stability and arms control dialogues;
- Adding the prohibition on the export of covered munitions and crime control items to the Hong Kong Police Force to the list of sanctions covered by the sense of Congress on the centrality of sanctions and other restrictions to strategic competition with China;
- Supporting United States educational and exchange programs with Taiwan by encouraging the establishment of an independent U.S.-Taiwan Cultural Exchange Foundation;
- Requiring a strategy to respond to sharp power operations targeting Taiwan;
- Providing for improved language regarding the treatment of the Taiwan government;
- Improving the Secretary of State’s report on Chinese influence on international organizations to specifically address human rights, internet sovereignty, the development of norms on artificial intelligence, labor, international standards-setting, and freedom of navigation;
- Authorizing appropriations for protecting human rights in the People’s Republic of China; and,
- Including in the strategy to enhance cooperation with South and Central Asia a description of United States diplomatic efforts to protect ethnic minorities fleeing persecution in China.
Today’s markup follows a series of moves by Merkley to advocate for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, including his championing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act. Last fall, Senator Merkley successfully passed legislation to ban the export of crowd control munitions to Hong Kong in an effort to help protect peaceful protesters during the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations. Merkley also has teamed up with Senator Todd Young (R-IN) in a bipartisan effort to press the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights for a strategy to protect human rights around the globe, including in Hong Kong, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Merkley has also been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, and is the co-lead of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act along with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).