Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening remarks today at a full committee markup of H.Res. 543, H.R. 3289, H.R. 4270, H. Res. 517, H.Res. 387, H.Res. 552, H.Res. 521:
"I want to start by discussing our strong measures that address the situation in Hong Kong.
"Over the past months, we’ve watched as the people of Hong Kong have bravely and tirelessly protested for their rights and their freedoms. And we are watching in real time as Beijing tries to flex its muscles and stifle this democratic dissent.
"Thirty years after Tiananmen Square massacre, Chinese authorities are still trying to use violence and intimidation to crush fundamental freedoms. To the Chinese Communist Party and those seeking to undermine Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy, let me be crystally clear—the House Foreign Affairs Committee will not sit idly by.
"So, I’m pleased we have a number of good measures before us today to demonstrate our support for the Hong Kong people at this critical time.
"First, we have Mr. Smith’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires regular evaluations of Beijing’s aggressive attempts to interfere in Hong Kong’s society. We also have Mr. Sherman’s resolution that condemns China’s intrusions in Hong Kong's affairs and supports the people of Hong Kong's right to protest.
"And there’s Mr. McGovern’s PROTECT Hong Kong Act, which addresses the disturbingly excessive use of force by the Hong Kong police against protestors. This bipartisan bill ensures that U.S. weapons aren’t being used to contribute to these horrific abuses. All three of these measures are important ways for us to take a stand on these critical issue, and I’m pleased to support them all.
"Another measure on China today is Mr. McCaul’s H. Res 521. China has essentially been playing a game of hostage diplomacy with our ally and neighbor, Canada—arresting and detaining Canadian citizens purely to retaliate against Canada’s lawfully arresting a Huawei executive. This measure rightly shows our support for Canada upholding the rule of law and expresses concern over this dangerous and inappropriate response from the Chinese government.
"Next, we have a measure dealing with an American citizen being wrongfully held in prison abroad. Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his cronies have kept American Paul Whelan locked up for over eight months, without providing so much as a shred of evidence that he’s done anything wrong.
"H.Res 552 calls on the Russian government to provide evidence or release Mr. Whelan so he can come home to the United States and receive the proper medical treatment he so urgently needs. Every day he spends in that Russian prison is yet another day spent suffering. This is yet another reminder of the kind of leader Putin is—and something we should all keep in mind.
I strongly support this measure and I want to thank Representative Stevens for her hard work to seek justice for Paul Whelan and his family.
"Next, I’ll turn to my resolution with Mr. McCaul that demonstrates Congress’s bipartisan support for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The Global Fund has contributed to incredible achievements in the fight against some of the world’s most terrible diseases. We cannot accept the Trump Administration’s drastic cut to this life-saving program. So, I’m pleased we are moving this forward and hope all members will join me in supporting it.
"Finally, we turn to the Central African Republic, where there are over one million people displaced by horrific violence and instability. Mr. Cicilline and Mr. Fortenberry’s resolution before us today condemns the rampant violence of armed groups in the Central African Republic and supports the country’s efforts to move towards stability and accountability. It’s a good measure that shows we are paying attention to this critical issue, and I hope all members will join me in supporting it."
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