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U.S.-Hong Kong Relations

U.S.-Hong Kong Relations


Following negotiations between the United Kingdom and China on the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, the legal aspects of Hong Kong’s handover seemed largely resolved, with 1997 marking the year that the United Kingdom would transfer authority over Hong Kong to China. But the Tiananmen Square Massacre shocked Hong Kong and the world and in the years following there was increased concern over the issue of the handover. The US-Hong Kong Policy Act was introduced in 1991 by Senator Mitch McConnell and became law the following year. This foundational piece of legislation in US-Hong Kong relations stated that US policy towards Hong Kong would remain unchanged after 1997, as long as the city remained autonomous.

What we have done

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act had been introduced in several previous Congresses, but in 2019 it passed both the House and Senate by decisive margins and was signed into law by President Trump on November 27th 2019. Members of the Hong Kong Democracy Council advocated for the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 even before we were a formal organization and its passage marked a sea change in US policy towards Hong Kong. The law changed the default policy assumption on Hong Kong: while the US-Hong Kong Policy Act had assumed autonomy, this new law’s default position was that Hong Kong lacked autonomy unless otherwise certified by the Secretary of State. The passage of this law and the subsequent declaration by Secretary of State Pompeo that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous marked a shift in focus towards human rights and democracy rather than business and economic development in Hong Kong.

What we are doing

Members of the Hong Kong Democracy Council continuously engage with the public and officials to advocate for effective usage of all the policy tools included in the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. We meet with policymakers and officials on Capitol Hill to ensure that promotion of human rights and democracy in Hong Kong is treated as a bipartisan priority well aligned with the US national interest and goals in the Indo-Pacific.


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