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Hong Kong People's Freedom and Choice Act of 2020

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 7, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, over the last year, the world has watched as the Chinese Communist Party has systematically destroyed the political freedoms that were guaranteed to the people of Hong Kong under the British-Sino treaty.

Hong Kongers are no longer allowed to exercise their rights of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, or freedom to peacefully assemble. Many protestors in Hong Kong have been beaten in the streets; others have been arrested and thrown in jail without due process.

Last week, we learned Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was sentenced to 13 months in jail for simply demanding the freedoms he was promised. Other activists like Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were sentenced to 10 months in jail as well.

This is the Chinese Communist Party showing its true colors as enemies of freedom and brutal oppressors of its own people.

I have had the privilege to speak with Joshua Wong on several occasions, including last year when he testified before our committee. He is devoted to Hong Kong, to his people, and to democracy. The Chinese Communist Party has jailed him for more than a year in what is an appalling injustice.

It is no wonder that the Director of National Intelligence recently wrote that the People's Republic of China poses the greatest threat to America today, and the greatest threat to democracy and freedom worldwide since World War II. I couldn't agree more.

That is why I was proud to chair the China Task Force earlier this year. And after months of classified and unclassified briefings, the China Task Force released a report with 82 key findings and more than 400 recommendations, many of which are focused on what steps we should take to help the people of Hong Kong, including providing support to Hong Kong refugees fleeing the Chinese Communist Party persecution, which this bill does.

The Hong Kong People's Freedom and Choice Act serves as a reminder to the Chinese Communist Party that America stands with the people of Hong Kong, and it will stand for freedom.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank, also, the sponsor of this bill, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Malinowski, for bringing this bill forward here today. I urge my colleagues to join us in support of this important legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. McCAUL. Mr. Speaker, at this point in time, I would like to take a moment of personal privilege to honor my dear friend, the gentleman from New York.

This may perhaps be our last time on the floor debating together. We have become good friends over the last 2 years as chairman and ranking member. I would argue that is the way it is supposed to be.

Chairman Engel often says, and I agree, that when it comes to foreign policy, that partisanship stops at the water's edge. In fact, just last year, RealClearPolitics described the Foreign Affairs Committee as an island of calm in a sea of partisanship. An island of calm in a sea of partisanship--I take that as a great compliment, and I know you should, too.

No one embodies that more than our committee chairman, Eliot Engel. I am honored to call him my friend.

Anyone who has ever worked with Chairman Engel, or just even had the opportunity to meet him, knows that he is truly a gentleman in every sense of the word. He always puts civility first, and he values public service and honor above everything else.

But not everyone knows that the man has got a great sense of humor. He is one of the funniest guys I know.

And that is why if you watch videos of us in the Foreign Affairs Committee on the dais, you will often see him lean over and whisper something to me, and I couldn't help but respond with laughter. And I have shared that sense of humor with him over the last 2 years.

Perhaps one of the fondest memories I have, Mr. Speaker, is traveling to Normandy on the 75th anniversary of D-day to see our D-day veterans, ones like my father, who fought in World War II as part of the D-day air campaign, to see those brave patriots who crushed and destroyed the evils of Nazi Germany.

Now, for those of you who may not know, there is a younger picture of Eliot that really looks just like one of the Beatles, and that would be John Lennon. And I was thinking about blowing it up and putting it on the floor, but I wanted to save you that. But it is not a bad looking picture.

So when we were on this codel, we decided, you know what, we are going to break away from the pack and have our own private dinner at Le Meurice in Paris. And I bought this really cool pair of sunglasses. They had to be readers, but they were sunglasses, and maybe for a guy from Texas they were a little too funky, but then when I looked at Eliot and that John Lennon look, I handed the glasses to Eliot, he put them on, and he looked absolutely fantastic in those glasses. So I said, Eliot, you can have those glasses. And it always charms me when he puts those glasses on sometimes at a committee hearing.

But no matter where he goes, Eliot is always the one to lighten the mood and make people feel more at ease. And that is really his way. He wants people to know that they are heard and that he is in their corner.

I will never forget the trip we took to the Colombia-Venezuela border at the height of the humanitarian crisis. We saw firsthand the six million people who fled the corrupt Maduro regime and the fallout that it caused. It was truly the worst humanitarian and refugee crisis facing the Western Hemisphere.

Eliot and I knew that something needed to be done, and as a result we introduced the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which aimed to curb illegal migration, spur economic development, and combat corruption in the area.

And not long after that, we introduced the bipartisan Global Fragility Act to improve the way the United States deals with fragile nations. And I am proud to say this bipartisan bill was signed into law last year.

Both of these legislative achievements are aimed at helping people who need it the most because that is who Chairman Engel truly is.

He sees this very large world that we live in and immediately wants to come to the aid of those who are suffering, those who are sick, and those who are needing a helping hand.

Under Chairman Engel's leadership on issues like these he has played a pivotal role in shaping United States foreign policy. The world is and will continue to be a more stable and secure place because of him.

In light of these accomplishments and so much more, I found it only fitting to name this year's State Department Authorization Act after the chairman, and I am proud to say the Eliot Engel State Department Act passed the House last year.

You know, most people could not imagine a Democrat from the Bronx and a Republican from the heart of Texas could not only work so well together, but that we would become best of friends, especially not in a town that is so often divided by politics.

But Mr. Engel and I decided early on from the start that we could achieve more if we focused on the things we agreed on than the things we didn't agree on. And the fact is, we agree on 95 percent of foreign policy issues and it is through our friendship that we have been able to accomplish so much.

I would say that serving with Chairman Engel has truly been a highlight of my political and professional career on the Hill. I know that wherever he goes next and wherever his lovely wife, Pat, and he go next that he will continue to serve our country honorably.

For his decades of service to this country, for his unwavering support for Israel and his long opposition to the Ayatollah in Iran and his long list of policy achievements, I believe that I speak for all of us here in the Chamber and all of us in the House when I say, ``Thank you, sir. Thank you for your service.'' It has been an honor.

Your legacy of pursuing bipartisanship policy solutions that strengthen our country will live on for years to come, and I hope it will be a role model for future committees and chairmen and ranking members as to how to work together to get good things done for the American people because that is what most Americans care about. They don't care about our political stripes; they want to know: What are you doing for the American people? And we have shown and led by example.

It is going to be hard for me to watch you, Mr. Chairman, leave this Chamber. You are my favorite chairman. But there is so much to celebrate with your time in Congress and the legacy that you will leave behind. So from the bottom of my heart to my dear friend, Chairman Engel, and to your wonderful wife Pat, who I have gotten to know over the years, who is a beautiful, precious woman, let me just say that both of you will truly be missed. We will miss you, but we know you are not going to be far away. And we know that you will be there in the future. And I look forward to working with you in your future position, which we discussed over dinner last Saturday night with Ed Royce, as well, your other dear friend, who has my utmost respect.

I would say this: Sometimes you have respect for a chairman because you fear them. We have respect for you because we admire you because you are an honest, decent man, and you are a true leader. You lead by example, and people want to follow a good man like that. You are a good man, Mr. Chairman, and it has been a great experience the time we have had together.

In closing, we can no longer deny the Chinese Communist Party is an enemy of democracy and a threat to international security and to freedom.

Nowhere is that more clear than in Hong Kong.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the CCP's brutal crackdown on freedom and democracy there.

That is why I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the Hong Kong People's Freedom and Choice Act.

With this legislation, we have the opportunity to assist the freedom- loving people of Hong Kong and to remind the world the United States of America stands with anyone who stands for freedom.

I thank my friends and colleagues, Congressmen Malinowski and Kinzinger and, most importantly, the chairman, Chairman Engel, for their hard work on this issue.