Congress weighs legislation to support Hong Kong protests, with local activists urging action

CONOR FINNEGAN

Congress weighs legislation to support Hong Kong protests, with local activists urging action originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Congress will hear from three pro-democracy activists from Hong Kong Tuesday as it weighs two pieces of legislation to boost the protest movement that has engulfed the territory for over 15 weeks now.

The two pieces of legislation, which have bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, would mark a dramatic step into actively supporting the protest movement, beyond issuing words of support.

Joshua Wong, one of the 2014 Umbrella Movement leaders who was recently arrested for his role in the current protests, will testify before the Congressional Executive Commission on China, along with pro-democracy activist Denise Ho and student group spokesperson Sunny Cheung. Wong will urge lawmakers to pass the legislation, arguing it has "broad support" in Hong Kong, according to prepared remarks obtained by ABC News.

PHOTO: Joshua Wong listens as Denise Ho (C), pro-Democracy activist and Cantopop singer testifies before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China about the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, on September 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C.s (Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images)

(MORE: Hong Kong police fire tear gas at pro-democracy protesters after chaos erupts)

The legislation would be the most significant show of external support the demonstrators have received, but one that China has blasted and warned the U.S. not to take.

"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. No foreign government, organization, or individual has any right to interfere," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Monday, accusing Wong of "begging for foreign interference in China's domestic affairs" and making "wanton comments on China-U.S. relations."

(MORE: Largest pro-democracy protest yet in Hong Kong fills major park, spills into streets)

The PROTECT Hong Kong Act would prohibit U.S. exports of police equipment to Hong Kong, including tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and more. The bill has bipartisan support and is authored by the Congressional Executive Commission on China's chairman, Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass.

"U.S. companies should not be selling equipment used to violently crackdown on pro-democracy protesters," McGovern will say this morning, according to prepared remarks obtained by ABC News. "I hope Congress will pass this legislation as soon as possible."

PHOTO: A riot police officer points tear gas gun to a foot bridge when confronting protestors in Hong Kong, Sept. 6, 2019. (Go Nakamura/ZUMAPRESS.com via Newscom)

The second bill, called the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, requires the administration to produce reports on the status of human rights and rule of law and of export controls in Hong Kong, requests that the State Department not deny visas to Hong Kongers for being arrested for protesting, and requires sanctions on those "responsible for the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and serous abuses of human rights."

"It is time we put the Chinese government on annual notice that further erosion of autonomy or a crackdown in Hong Kong will cause the city, and by extension mainland China, to lose its special economic and trade arrangement with the U.S.," McGovern is expected to say.

(MORE: US calls China 'thuggish regime' after Beijing protests diplomat's opposition meeting)

Protesters marched outside the U.S. consulate general on September 8, waving American flags and urging Congress to pass both pieces of legislation.

The legislation "enjoys the broad support of Hong Kong's civil society, a point which I want every member of Congress to take note," Wong will tell the commission, according to prepared remarks.

PHOTO: Protesters shout slogans and wave U.S. flags as they march from Chater Garden to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Vincent Yu/AP, FILE)

In particular, protests have demanded an investigation into the police's use of force against them, arguing the intensity of the crackdown is unacceptable. Over 800 canisters of tear gas were used on August 5 alone, compared to just 87 during the entire 2014 protest movement, according to Wong. Tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and rubber batons with "Made in America" stamped on their side have all been found in the streets of Hong Kong.

(MORE: Chinese military runs intimidating simulation drills in Shenzhen, across from Hong Kong)

"The police's excessive force today is clear. Their increasingly liberal use of pepper spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets, sponge bullets, bean bag rounds, and water cannons -- almost all of which are imported from Western democracies -- are no less troubling," he is expected to say.

He will call on Congress to act and be celebrated by historians " for having stood on the side of Hong Kongers, the side of human rights and democracy."

ABC News Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell contributed to this report from Hong Kong.