The House Foreign Affairs committee heard testimony on what Beijing’s new national security law means for democracy, free speech, trade, and other issues in Hong Kong.
Watch the event in the live player above.
The new law, which was imposed in a move seen as Beijing’s boldest step yet to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.
“The purpose of this law is to frighten, intimidate and suppress the people of Hong Kong who are peacefully demanding the freedoms they have long been owed,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“All freedom loving people must come together to condemn the law, which accelerates Beijing’s years long assault on Hong Kong’s political and economic freedoms.”
The law, imposed following anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s internal affairs.
Any person taking part in activities such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags calling for the city’s independence is violating the law regardless of whether violence is used. Its definition of those crimes could be interpreted broadly to include various forms of speech or organizing.
The most serious offenders, such as those deemed to be masterminds behind these activities, could receive a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Lesser offenders could receive jail terms of up to three years, short-term detention or restriction.
“This is a battle between democracy and dictatorship, between liberty and tyranny and between freedom and oppression,” said Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. “And it is a battle that the world must win.”