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Hong Kong democracy activist appears at US Capitol

Associated Press Associated Press 16/11/2016 By MATTHEW PENNINGTON, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A prominent young Hong Kong democracy activist urged president-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday to support human rights in the semiautonomous city that he says are under threat from Beijing.

Twenty-year old student Joshua Wong spearheaded huge 2014 street protests in Hong Kong against Beijing's plan to restrict elections. He spoke at an event on Capitol Hill organized by a U.S. congressional panel that monitors rights issues in China.

Wong said the international community has a moral responsibility to "keep their eyes on Hong Kong" as the communist government on the mainland was eroding freedoms enshrined in the agreement that underpinned the handover of the former British colony to China in 1997.

Wong said that Hong Kong's 7 million people deserve democracy, and the free market system in what is a global financial center is threatened when Beijing "hijacks" the rule of law.

"Being a businessman, I hope Donald Trump could know the dynamics in Hong Kong and know that to maintain the business sector benefits in Hong Kong, it's necessary to fully support human rights in Hong Kong to maintain the judicial independence and the rule of law," Wong said.

Last week, China's top legislature effectively barred two legally elected separatist lawmakers from taking office in Hong Kong's Legislative Council after they altered their oaths of office by adding anti-China insults. That spurred fears that Hong Kong's own courts were being circumvented.

A High Court judge has since ruled that the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, was violated by the lawmakers.

Wong is secretary-general of the Demosisto party, which wants a referendum on "self-determination" on the future status of Hong Kong, which is in the middle of a 50-year transition period to Chinese rule.

He predicted massive protests if more pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified.

Two Republican senators on Wednesday introduced legislation that would punish Hong Kong or Chinese mainland officials who suppress basic freedoms in Hong Kong. There is little time remaining in the current congressional session to achieve its passage into U.S. law.

"Beijing has consistently undermined the 'one country, two systems' principle and infringed on the democratic freedoms the residents of Hong Kong are supposed to be guaranteed," said Sen. Marco Rubio, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

"It is critical in the days ahead that the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong be a vital U.S. interest and foreign policy priority," he said in a statement.

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