McConnell Defends Democratic Activists in Burma, Hong Kong
‘The Administration has been right to condemn the junta and to consult with Congress on its response. But as Burma’s protesters begin to pay the ultimate price for speaking out, the United States must make it clear that military and police officials will face crippling costs of their own. This should include the military-owned holding companies, which have deep roots in Burma’s economy.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding foreign policy:
“Last weekend brought disconcerting headlines for supporters of freedom and democracy in Asia.
“In Burma, the military junta’s month-long coup turned bloody. 18 protesters have been murdered and at least a thousand civilian officials have been imprisoned on farcical grounds.
“In Hong Kong, China’s puppet regime arrested forty-seven democracy advocates, including some who helped draw millions to the streets in peaceful protest in 2019, and are now holding them without bail.
“Unfortunately, in both places, this sort of repression has become a familiar part of life. And it could be a dark preview of developments elsewhere if the free world does not act.
“Even as Burma’s civilian government made history in 2015, the military made clear it would keep using cronyism and constitutional manipulation to obstruct real popular control.
“In last year’s election, the people overwhelmingly demanded for true democracy and economic transparency.
“But that also raised the risks for those working publicly to make permanent reforms.
“The military’s detention spree has hit Burma’s civilian leaders, including people like Mya Aye, a longtime Muslim pro-democracy leader. It’s also swept up some of the brightest economic reformers working to fight corruption and grow prosperity.
“Brave men like Bo Bo Nge, who spent years locked away in Burma’s Insein prison in the 80s and 90s, built a successful life abroad, and returned to help the civilian government craft economic reforms.
“Even foreign nationals have been subjected to unjustified detention. The world is closely watching the case of Sean Turnell, an Australian scholar who has spent years helping Burma’s civilian leaders unlock its economic potential.
“The Administration has been right to condemn the junta and to consult with Congress on its response. But as Burma’s protesters begin to pay the ultimate price for speaking out, the United States must make it clear that military and police officials will face crippling costs of their own. This should include the military-owned holding companies, which have deep roots in Burma’s economy.
“It is time to lead an international effort to support the people of Burma.
“It’s also time to strengthen our calls for an international response to China’s shameless human rights abuses, beginning with Hong Kong.
“Another round of arrests in the last several days has sent a new wave of student activists to prison, with no due process. They join veteran pro-democracy reformers like my friends Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai who were already rounded up.
“The United States cannot outsource our moral authority in championing democracy around the world. When we stay silent, the voice of the international community is channeled through forums where the most notorious human rights abusers preside over their own trials.
“The ironically-named U.N. Human Rights Council boasts a membership including such paragons of virtue as the Russian Federation, which has begun sentencing citizens to prison for non-state-sanctioned religious beliefs.
“And Venezuela, whose rap sheet the State Department spells out as ‘arbitrary detention’, ‘forced disappearances’, and ‘extrajudicial killings’...
“And Cuba, whose government exports repressive tools to countries like Venezuela...
“And, of course, the People’s Republic of China itself, where the hypocrisy stretches from repression in Hong Kong to internment and torture of the Uighur people in Xinjiang.
“The Biden Administration has advertised a foreign policy focused on human rights and democracy, and quite publicly announced its intention to rejoin the U.N. Human Rights Council.
“Fine, let Burma and Hong Kong and Xinjiang and Belarus be tests of this Administration’s approach to the Council.
“But the White House must not put much trust in this corrupted institution. We should be uniting like-minded democracies around actions that United Nations panels are either unable or unwilling to take.
“With respect to Hong Kong, the prior administration took several concrete steps -- from closing PRC investment loopholes in Hong Kong to imposing targeted sanctions.
“Now is the time for the Biden Administration to show its resolve as it confronts serious tests of its own.”
Related Issues: Burma