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Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers Alvin Yeung (left) and Dennis Kwok in New York on Thursday. Photo: The Asia Society

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers in US to discuss city’s crisis with politicians and business leaders

  • Dennis Kwok and Alvin Yeung of the Civic Party say they want to tell the truth about what’s happening in Hong Kong
  • ‘Hong Kong is sick, Kwok says. ‘Every time that symptoms come out, you just give that guy … expired painkillers, hoping that symptoms will go away’

Two pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong are in the United States to meet government officials and business leaders to discuss the political unrest that has left the city in turmoil.

Dennis Kwok Wing-hang and Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party said they wanted to tell the truth about what was happening in Hong Kong to the international community. They will also speak to government officials about how to move forward a bill US Congress will deliberate next month that could tighten Washington’s watch over the city.

The bill they referred to – the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – was reintroduced in June and would require the US to assess Hong Kong’s level of autonomy each year to determine whether the city should continue to enjoy special trade status under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. If passed, the bill could force Beijing to back down to keep Hong Kong from losing its special economic status, which would affect investment in the city as well as on the mainland.

Lawmaker Dennis Kwok will brief US officials and business leaders on events in Hong Kong. Photo: EPA-EFE

“The international community is important to Hong Kong,” Kwok said on Thursday at the Asia Society in New York. “I don’t think the [domestic] system is working as seen [by how the government dealt with] the extradition bill.”

On Tuesday, the Democratic speaker of the US House, Nancy Pelosi, issued a statement criticising the “escalating violence” against protesters in Hong Kong and calling it “extremely alarming”. She also pledged to rally support for the US bill.

“In the Congress, Democrats and Republicans continue to stand united with the people of Hong Kong in demanding the hopeful, free and democratic future that is their right,” Pelosi said. “In the coming weeks, we will work to pass the bicameral and bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to reaffirm the US commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the face of Beijing’s crackdown and focus on banning the sale of munitions and crowd control gear to the Hong Kong police force.”

Said Yeung on Thursday: “We trust those in power in America, they will find out what's going on, and they will make a sound choice.”

White House faces growing calls to toughen Hong Kong stance

The two legislators are expected to meet members of Congress from both parties in the coming days and also take part in a four-day US-Hong Kong dialogue in Montana next week.

In June, more than a million Hongkongers took to the streets in opposition to a proposed bill that would have allowed criminal extraditions to mainland China. The city has been in turmoil since, as tensions escalated after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam shelved the bill but refused to withdraw it.

The nature of the protests has also shifted more broadly against the government in recent weeks. The encounters between the protesters and Hong Kong police have become more violent, with the police shooting tear gas on multiple occasions and demonstrators paralysing operations at the international airport this week.

“Hong Kong is sick, but the problem is every time you see a massive protests, instead of going to the root of the problem, [the government] applies tear gas, they apply police baton, they apply a court injunction hoping that [it] will go away,” Kwok said.

“It’s like someone who’s seriously ill. And every time that symptoms come out, you just give that guy painkillers, no, expired painkillers, hoping that symptoms will go away.”

When asked about the possibility of Beijing sending troops into Hong Kong, Yeung said: “It is not to the interest of Beijing because it will rock the boat.

“It will certify the end of ‘one country, two systems’, it will send the loudest message to the rest of the world.”

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One country, two systems was Beijing’s pledge to maintain the city’s political character for 50 years after the British handed its colonial city over in 1997, with hopes that by 2047 the systems would have converged, most likely, in Hong Kong’s direction.

“But before we talk about 2047, we talk about 2037 and 2027. We have to do everything we can to earn the bargaining chips because by the time the future Beijing government wishes to either extend or to preserve, they will have to talk to Hong Kong people,” Yeung said.

“Which is the democratic foundation we’re talking about – democracy and universal suffrage that will give Hong Kong the full democratic election,” Kwok added.

City’s special status under US law too important to lose, AmCham warns

As of now, “Hong Kong government is not doing a good job,” Yeung said. “When Carrie Lam goes to meet President Xi Jinping, is she standing up for Hong Kong people? Is she arguing Hong Kong people’s case?”

“Hong Kong people are not asking for the moon,” he added. “We are simply asking for something that was promised in the Basic Law.”