When US President Donald Trump makes his annual State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday evening, the Hong Kong activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung will be in attendance – the guest of Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida . Scott views the invitation as a way to keep Hong Kong’s continuing protest movement and its struggle for democracy front and centre as a foreign policy issue for the US. “I am honoured to have Nathan as my guest,” Scott said. “Nathan is an inspiration in the fight for freedom and democracy, and he has sent a powerful message to Communist China that the people of Hong Kong will not back down or be silenced.” Later on Monday in another move likely to displease Beijing, fellow Florida Republican Senator Mark Rubio said he would host Uygur human rights activist Rushan Abbas at the president's speech. "As the founder and executive director of Campaign for Uygurs, Rushan has tirelessly raised awareness of the atrocities taking place in Xinjiang at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party." Rubio said. Law, the founding chairman of youth activist group Demosistō, was unseated as a Hong Kong legislator in 2017 and is now a graduate student in East Asian Studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. He confirmed in a tweet that he plans to attend. Law, 26, rose to prominence as a participant in Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy protests for greater democracy, also known as the umbrella movement . When that civil disobedience campaign fell apart after 79 days, Law and two other pro-democracy activists were charged for their roles in an illegal protest and sentenced to six to eight months in jail. They were subsequently released on bail after serving a few months behind bars, and the Court of Final Appeal quashed their prison terms. “The United States will always stand with fighters like Nathan to rise up against injustice and fight for freedom,” Scott said in a statement. “The world must stand together to present a unified front against Communist China’s aggression.” The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Scott is a China hawk who has frequently criticised Beijing’s human rights, technology, social and economic policies. He was one of several sponsors of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which passed by nearly unanimous vote and became law in November . Analysts said that given the law’s passage, the focus this year will be more on assuring its implementation than on new Hong Kong-related legislation. The human rights bill, passed over Beijing’s strong opposition and signed into law by Trump, apparently under political pressure from Republicans, requires that the administration issue a report annually on whether Hong Kong remains suitably autonomous from Beijing. It also outlines possible sanctions for individuals deemed to be violating the human rights of Hong Kong residents or undermining the territory’s autonomy. Hundreds gather to thank US for Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act Thomas Kellogg, executive director of the Georgetown Centre for Asian Law, said that Scott’s invitation is a way to spotlight foreign issues at a speech that will be primarily domestic in focus and to signal that Congress’s interest in Hong Kong has not gone away. Kellogg said it would be a mistake for Beijing and the Hong Kong government to regard the current lull in protests in the city as a sign that the underlying dissatisfaction has disappeared. “Yes, t hey’re dealing with the coronavirus crisis , and perhaps that will distract people for a while. But the bottom line is that they still need to address the Hong Kong people’s anger,” Kellogg said. “What the Trump administration should do is signal to Beijing that it needs to negotiate. That’s the only way out of the crisis, to sit down and negotiate a fair solution.” How big a deal is the Hong Kong Democracy Act for businesses? Former President Ronald Reagan started the tradition of inviting and acknowledging guests at the State of the Union, a presidential speech given each year that lays out the administration’s priorities and accomplishments. Heading into an election year, Trump is expected during his address Tuesday night to highlight his accomplishments, including the phase one trade agreement with China, a strong US economy and his commitment to build a wall along the border with Mexico. His speech also could highlight steps taken by his administration to contain the novel coronavirus, including a ban on foreign nationals who have been in China during the past two weeks. China has criticised the US controls and “unfriendly comments” out of Washington suggesting that Beijing failed to cooperate adequately in fighting the disease. Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. 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