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Engel Remarks on Hong Kong "One Country, Two Systems" Policy

Nov 2, 2017
Press Release

– As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following remarks in support of his resolution that urges adherence to the “one country, two systems” policy relating to Hong Kong’s autonomy (H.Res.422):

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this measure and yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Let me start by thanking our Chairman on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce of California, for his leadership, and for working with me to bring this measure forward.

“I introduced this resolution with Representatives Chabot, Yoho, Sherman, and Smith, and I want to thank them all for their partnership. 

“I really listened intently to Mr. Yoho and also know that we make progress on the Foreign Affairs Committee because, as Mr. Poe of Texas said, we work in a bipartisan measure and we try to agree on the language.  And we try to make sure that the U.S. Congress speaks with one voice so that both our friends and adversaries around the world will understand that we put partisanship aside.  We leave it at the water’s edge and I think that’s very important.

“And I think the kind of people the Foreign Affairs Committee attracts to serve on the Committee, on both sides of the aisle, are the kind that keep perpetuating this bipartisan spirit because we have differences in policies for sure, but we’re all Americans.

“We all want to keep each other safe and we all want to make sure that America does the right thing and that others do the right thing to America as well. 

“And so, when we have the incident like we had yesterday with the terrible terrorist attack in Manhattan, it makes us pause as a Congress and think about what this all means.

“The people in Hong Kong were made promises as well.  They were made promises years ago that China would be one country, including Hong Kong, but two systems and Hong Kong would be its independent system.

“And of course, the Chinese officials in the Beijing regime has tried every which way to go after student protesting, curbing the rights and values of the people of Hong Kong.

“And so, this resolution is really very, very important.  So, I thank again Mr. Smith, Sherman, Yoho, and Chabot.

“But I also want to recognize Doug Anderson and Sean O’Neil on the Chairman’s staff for their contributions to this resolution and Jennifer Hendrixson-White on my staff.

“It’s a great example, again, of bipartisanship when it comes to foreign policy and we work together and we produce what I regard as superior products.

“For decades, Mr. Speaker, the United States has shared an important, unique relationship with Hong Kong.  That relationship has been based on Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China. This resolution underscores our national-security interest in seeing Hong Kong remain autonomous at a time when we’ve seen some troubling trends.

“Twenty years ago, at the time of the handover, China made a commitment that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy its special status. Today, China claims that the 1997 Joint Declaration is a so-called ‘historical document’ that has, again, ‘no practical significance.’ But the U.K.—and the United States—believe in international law and we are committed to holding China to its word: again, a ‘one country, two systems’ form of government in Hong Kong. 

“This approach was experimental when the Chinese and British first devised it. You may remember that Hong Kong was a British colony. The Chinese government essentially said that Hong Kong would continue to have its own executive, legislative, and judicial rights. That the people of Hong Kong would continue to enjoy fundamental rights guaranteed in Hong Kong’s laws.

“But Beijing is now backing away from its commitments.  Even declaring the joint declaration a ‘historical document’ with no relevance today.

“Meddling in Hong Kong’s elections by China’s National People’s Congress led to the Umbrella Protests in 2014. Hong Kong residents critical of the People’s Republic of China have disappeared, while the presence of the People’s Liberation Army has grown. The credibility of Hong Kong’s courts has suffered following decisions to send Umbrella Movement student leaders to prison after they had already served their previous sentences. Academic freedoms have eroded, self-censorship has grown, and journalists face regular harassment.

“So we’re worried, Mr. Speaker. We’re worried about Chinese encroachment, about what’s going to happen to the people of Hong Kong, and about the way China’s newly aggressive posture is going to affect our relationship with Hong Kong in the future.

“Twenty years after accepting the so-called ‘one country, two systems’ model, China’s objective now seems to be making Hong Kong and the Mainland ‘one country, one system.’ This is not what the government in Beijing, the international community, the United States, Great Britain or the people of Hong Kong signed up for.

“So this issue raises bigger questions, Mr. Speaker. To what degree will the Chinese government live up to its international commitments as China continues to expand economically and grow in stature on the global stage?

“This measure says, ‘Enough.’  It sends a message to China that we, in the United States Congress, expect Beijing to keep its word. That’s not asking too much. 

“It reiterates that our special bond with Hong Kong is based on our shared values—the values of democracy—and that we want to see that relationship endure for years to come.

“So I’m grateful to my colleagues for working on this measure with me, especially Mr. Yoho. I ask support from all Members. And I reserve the balance of my time.”

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