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Rubio, Colleagues Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Remove CCP-Controlled Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices From U.S.

Feb 16, 2023 | Comunicados de Prensa

Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (HKETOs) operate as official representative offices of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to the United States and enjoy a series of privileges, exemptions, and immunities. HKETOs were granted these privileges under the assumption Hong Kong would remain free from the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian grip. That reality changed after the imposition of Beijing’s draconian 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong. Following the enactment of the bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, led by Senator Rubio, the U.S. no longer recognizes Hong Kong as autonomous. HKETOs in the United States now serve as another mouthpiece that the Chinese Communist Party can use to obscure its long record of human rights abuses against Hong Kongers and other groups Beijing deems a threat.  

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) reintroduced the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (HKETO) Certification Act to reevaluate the United States’ recognition of HKETOs following Hong Kong’s loss of autonomy.

  • “As China continues to undermine Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy, we must ensure that if Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices no longer merit diplomatic immunities, their privileges are revoked.” — Senator Rubio

  • “The tragic transformation of Hong Kong from an open society into just another Chinese city under the authoritarian thumb of Beijing removes the rationale for separate treatment of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices. The sad reality is that these entities – intended to help relatively autonomous Hong Kong authorities hold cultural events and liaise with the U.S. government on matters related to economic engagement – now serve as propaganda arms of the Chinese government. The time for business as usual has passed. Presidents of both parties have used tools provided by Congress to address the Chinese government’s brazen disregard of its obligations to the people of Hong Kong, and this bill serves to do the same. This bipartisan bill would enact a concrete step in demonstrating the consequences of destroying Hong Kong’s autonomy, and I will continue to work with Senator Rubio and other colleagues to speak in defense of the people of Hong Kong.” — Senator Merkley

Congressmen Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) will reintroduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • “Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices have become functional outposts of the Chinese Communist Party as Xi Jinping smothers civil and political rights in Hong Kong and rips apart both the Basic Law—Hong Kong’s mini-constitution—and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is dead, and our laws must be updated to reflect that reality.” — Representative Smith

  • “For years, central Chinese authorities have systematically erased the freedoms and autonomy enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong, in violation of their own agreement. Congress granted Hong Kong a diplomatic office in recognition of its special autonomous status. But if Beijing wants to treat Hong Kong as any other PRC city, then maybe it doesn’t merit a separate diplomatic benefit. This bipartisan bill will answer that question.” — Representative McGovern

The legislation would require the President, 30 days after enactment, to certify whether HKETOs in the United States merit the extension of privileges, exemptions, and immunities that they currently maintain. If the President certifies that the HKETOs do not merit diplomatic immunities, the HKETOs will terminate their operations within six months. If the President determines that the HKETOs do merit an extension of privileges, Congress has the authority to offer a disapproval resolution which, if adopted, would force the administration to revoke the privileges enjoyed by the HKETOs. This determination by the President would be required yearly.