WASHINGTON – The House has overwhelmingly condemned an anti-sedition proposal being considered by the Hong Kong Legislative Council (search), saying it threatens the liberties of Hong Kong's 7 million people.
The nonbinding House resolution, passed, 426-1 Thursday, urges Hong Kong and the Beijing government, which strongly backs the measure, to withdraw "Article 23" "as it would reduce the basic freedoms of the people of Hong Kong."
"Freedom of expression by individuals is more than the internal affair of a government," said Rep. Christopher Cox (search)., R-Calif., author of the resolution and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "It is a human right shared by all peoples and recognized by all civilized nations."
The White House also released a statement last week opposing the proposal, which amends Hong Kong's "Basic Law" to give the government wide powers to bring sedition or treason charges against individuals or groups voicing opposition to the government.
"Hong Kong's special status, endorsed by the United States under the (1992) Hong Kong Policy Act (search), depends on the local authorities' protection of human and civil rights and preservation of the terrority's autonomy," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in a statement. "The United States opposes any law that threatens the territory's unique identity, including the current version of Article 23 legislation."
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., praised the administration's stance on the proposal, which she said was "a significant threat to Hong Kong's autonomy and to the freedoms that make it a center for the exchange of information and ideas."
Under the Sino-British agreement that led to the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, China was to guarantee Hong Kong's economic and political freedoms for at least 50 years.
The lone dissenting vote was Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.