US Congress seeks to change Hong Kong office’s address to Jimmy Lai Way

by Admin
US Congress seeks to change Hong Kong office’s address to Jimmy Lai Way

Two U.S. congressmen have introduced a bill to rename the street in front of Hong Kong’s de facto embassy in Washington as “Jimmy Lai Way” in honor of the jailed media entrepreneur.

The bill would also apply the name change to the mailing address for the office, officially known as the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey announced the bill in a statement Thursday, saying he and the bill’s co-author, Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, wanted to honor the “renowned Hong Kong human rights defender who remains unjustly imprisoned by Hong Kong authorities.”

Authorities jailed the 76-year-old founder of Hong Kong media group Next Digital, formerly Next Media, in December 2020 after accusing him of fraud.

They also charged him with “conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or external forces to endanger national security” under Hong Kong’s National Security Law. The cases are still ongoing, and Lai has been denied bail.

In the statement, Smith, who is chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, called the charges “fabricated” and “politically motivated.”

“Jimmy Lai is a man of faith and conviction, someone who fervently believed that Hong Kong’s prosperity and vitality were built on the rights promised to its citizens,” Smith said. “For peacefully acting on this belief, he is arbitrarily detained.”

Since Beijing imposed the tough Hong Kong security law in 2020, U.S. lawmakers from both parties have become increasingly concerned about the Asian financial hub’s autonomy and are looking at measures to put pressure on its government.

Beijing says the security law is needed to maintain stability but has used it to arrest, jail and try hundreds of pro-democracy activists, stifling Hong Kong’s once vibrant civil society.

In March, Hong Kong lawmakers unanimously and quickly approved their own sweeping national security law known as Basic Law Article 23, strengthening the government’s ability to silence dissent.

“We will continue to press for Jimmy Lai’s unconditional release and seek ways to raise the diplomatic and reputational costs globally for the Hong Kong government and their Chinese Communist Party masters for their rough dismantling of democratic freedoms and the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Smith said in the statement.

Smith, who has long been concerned about human rights in China, nominated Lai and other jailed, well-known Chinese rights defenders Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, along with Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize in February. U.S. lawmakers called them “advocates for peace and freedom.”

“The free world must continue calling attention to the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes in Xinjiang, erosion of democracy in Hong Kong, and saber-rattling against Taiwan,” Suozzi said in the statement.

“Naming a street in Washington, D.C., after Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy advocate and journalist standing up for human rights in Hong Kong, will signal to the entire world that the United States stands in solidarity with those who oppose the tyranny and repression of the Chinese government,” he added.

The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office has locations in three U.S. cities — Washington, New York and San Francisco.

VOA contacted the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office and the Chinese Embassy in Washington for their reaction to the proposed bill. They forwarded VOA’s inquiry to the Information Services Department in Hong Kong, which did not receive respond by publication time.

U.S. lawmakers have on several occasions proposed name changes for roads in front of foreign embassies and territories to memorialize and honor rights defenders from those countries who were persecuted by their own governments.

In 2014, a bill was introduced to rename a portion of International Place NW, a street that runs in front of the Chinese Embassy in Washington after Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. The Chinese writer and government critic died in custody in 2017.

In 2020, U.S. lawmakers proposed renaming the same street “Li Wenliang Plaza” after the doctor who was punished for posting warnings on social media about the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 in Wuhan. He died that same year from the virus.

In 2018, the city government in Washington renamed a section of the avenue in front of the Russian Embassy as “Boris Nemtsov Plaza” in honor of the Russian opposition activist who had been fatally shot in Moscow three years earlier.

In 2022, the street in front of the Saudi Arabian Embassy was renamed “Jamal Khashoggi Way” after the Washington Post columnist was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by government agents.

In February, a bipartisan group of U.S. congressmen announced legislation to rename a section of the street near the Russian ambassador’s residence as “Alexei Navalny Way” to memorialize the late Russian opposition leader less than two weeks after his sudden death in prison.

Source Link

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.