March 18, 2021

Lankford, Kaine Defend Open Internet in Hong Kong

WASHINGTON, D.C. Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) today introduced the Safeguarding Internet Freedom in Hong Kong Act. Since July 2020, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has implemented a “national security law” that violates the basic freedoms of Hong Kongers including the freedom to peacefully assemble and the right to freely access and share information online. The bill supports firewall circumvention infrastructure in Hong Kong to strengthen the ability of the people to share information online. 

“China has continuously shown they have no regard for the autonomy of Hong Kong or the basic rights of its people,” said Lankford. “Based on Beijing’s track record, I am concerned that the internet suppression the CCP uses in mainland China will soon become a reality in Hong Kong if the United States does not act. Pro-democracy advocates speaking out against Beijing’s oppression should not be censored or limited in their ability to openly communicate on the internet. Investing in firewall circumvention technology protects and safeguards the basic freedoms Hongkongers have long been guaranteed while affirming the US’ commitment to proudly stand with the people of Hong Kong.” 

“Since we first introduced this bill in July 2020, China’s oppression of Hong Kong has only gotten worse. Chinese telecom service providers have blocked a pro-democracy website. Chinese authorities are arresting civil society activists and taking steps to ban anti-Beijing candidates from running for office. Those developments make opposing censorship and supporting civil society in Hong Kong through this bill and other legislation more urgent than ever,” said Kaine.

The bill establishes an interagency working group of officials from the Department of State, the Open Technology Fund, and the US Agency for International Development to coordinate US efforts to develop and deploy firewall circumvention technology to Hong Kong. The federal government already invests in internet freedom programs in mainland China and other areas around the world with high degrees of online censorship, but ongoing events make clear that a new program is needed to address what is happening in Hong Kong. 

As a commissioner on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), Lankford has worked to protect the rights of Hongkongers and hold the Chinese government accountable for its human rights abuses. Lankford supported the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was signed into law by President Trump in 2019, and the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which became law in 2020. Last month, Lankford joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act.

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