US Senator Rick Scott has invited prominent Hong Kong activist Nathan Law Kwun-chung to attend the annual State of the Union address to Congress by President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening.
Scott, a Republican representing Florida, said the invitation was a means to show that Hong Kong’s ongoing protest movement — which evolved into a call for broad democratic reforms over the course of months of demonstrations — remains a key foreign policy issue for the US.
“Nathan is an inspiration in the fight for freedom and democracy and has sent a powerful message to Communist China that the people of Hong Kong won’t be silenced,” Scott said on Twitter.
Law, 26, was the founding chairman of youth activist group Demosistō, and was barred from the Legislative Council after winning a seat in 2017 for taking his oath in a way that Beijing later ruled unconstitutional. He is currently a graduate student in East Asian Studies at Yale University, Connecticut.
“I am honored to attend the 2020 State of the Union address on Tuesday night as the guest of Senator Rick Scott,” Law said in a tweet confirming his attendance.
“Hong Kong is crucial — it represents the spirit of freedom and democracy in the era of democratic recession. It gets strong bipartisan support and we are all united.”
Law first rose to prominence for joining the city’s Umbrella Movement in 2014, which similarly called for universal suffrage and greater democracy.
Following the Umbrella Movement’s eventual collapse after 79 days, he and fellow pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung were sentenced to six and seven months in jail, respectively, in August 2017. They were ultimately released after serving only a few months after the Court of Final Appeal struck down the remainder of their sentences on appeal.
“The United States will always stand with fighters like Nathan to rise up against injustice and fight for freedom. We cannot let Communist China and General Secretary Xi [Jinping] continue to silence the people of Hong Kong, and the world must stand together to present a unified front against Communist China’s aggression,” Senator Scott said in a statement.
A frequent critic of Beijing, Scott was one of several sponsors of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was signed into law in November.
The bill, which triggered an outcry from Beijing over what it characterized as U.S. interference in its internal affairs, requires the U.S. government to annually assess whether Hong Kong remains sufficiently autonomous from Beijing in order to continue to enjoy its special trade status. It also allows for potential sanctions on individuals deemed to be violating the human rights of Hong Kong residents.
In another move likely to upset Beijing, fellow Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he would host Uyghur human rights activist Rushan Abbas at the president’s speech.
“As the Founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs, Rushan has tirelessly raised awareness of the atrocities taking place in Xinjiang at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said in a statement.
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