Florida’s senators will use their guest spots at the State of the Union Tuesday night to highlight activists fighting against the repressive Chinese Communist Party. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has invited Nathan Law, founder of one of Hong Kong’s most influential pro-democracy groups; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) invited Uyghur human rights advocate Rushan Abbas.
Members of Congress traditionally invite individuals as guests to accompany them to the State of the Union to highlight causes near to them. President Donald Trump will also highlight several distinguished guests of his during the speech.
Nathan Law, the 26-year-old founder of the anti-communist group Demosisto, acknowledged his invitation to the address on Twitter. Law has been actively protesting China’s increasingly belligerent attempts to shut down the traditional freedoms common in Hong Kong — and absent in China — since 2013, when he was 20 years old, and was elected to the Hong Kong legislature three years later, the youngest elected lawmaker in Hong Kong history. The Beijing-controlled Hong Kong government swiftly moved to remove him from power, however. He is currently the co-leader of Demosisto alongside fellow founder and Hong Kong democracy leader Joshua Wong and a graduate student at Yale University, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Hong Kong is crucial – it represents the spirit of freedom and democracy in the era of democratic recession,” Law noted on Twitter, announcing his presence at the State of the Union address. “The case of Hong Kong continues to remind us how precious freedom is. I hope that the President could be vigilant to China’s expansionist aggression and uphold the liberal values in his speech.”
The case of Hong Kong continues to remind us how precious freedom is. I hope that the President could be vigilant to China’s expansionist aggression and uphold the liberal values in his speech, as a form of support to the freedom fighters around the world.#Hongkong#Freedom
— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 😷 (@nathanlawkc) February 3, 2020
“I am honored to have Nathan as my guest,” Scott said in a statement. “Nathan is an inspiration in the fight for freedom and democracy, and he has sent a powerful message to Communist China that the people of Hong Kong will not back down or be silenced.”
Hong Kong has endured over six months of protests against the Chinese communist regime, generally demanding more autonomy but specifically urging the government to cede to four demands: freedom for political prisoners, the right to directly elect all lawmakers, an investigation into police brutality, and an end to calling peaceful protesters “rioters.” The protests began on the back of a fifth demand, which the government conceded: the full withdrawal of a proposed bill that would have allowed the government to extradite anyone Chinese Communist Party officials accused of violating Chinese law into the Chinese prison system. Unlike Hong Kong, China does not respect the right to free speech and often imprisons pro-democracy activists, religious minorities, and human rights lawyers for “crimes” such as “disturbing the public order.” The law the protest movement successfully fought would have applied to all persons present in Hong Kong, not just Hong Kong residents.
The ongoing Hong Kong democracy movement routinely attracts tens of thousands, and sometimes millions, to near-weekly protests. Hong Kong residents have recently limited public assemblies in the face of the growing novel coronavirus outbreak originating in central China, which has killed one person in Hong Kong so far.
The U.S. Congress, through the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, nominated the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for a Nobel Peace Prize in an official letter to the nominating committee on Monday.
“The decision to nominate the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was based on the fact that this year’s protests were ‘impressively organized and coherent, yet notably leaderless and flexible,’” the commission said in a statement. “The Commissioners urged the Nobel Peace Prize committee to recognize the ‘countless and often anonymous individuals [who] risked their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education to support a better future for Hong Kong.’”
While Scott’s guest will highlight the fight against communism in Hong Kong, Rubio’s will highlight the ongoing plight of China’s ethnic Uyghurs, a majority Muslim ethnic group indigenous to far-west Xinjiang, China. The Communist Party, dominated by China’s Han ethnic majority, has waged an unceasing campaign to eliminate the existence of Uyghurs, primarily through the use of concentration camps to indoctrinate, enslave, sterilize, and kill them. Estimates of the number of Uyghurs — and Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other Muslims minorities in Xinjiang — in these camps extends into the millions.
Rubio’s guest, Rushan Abbas, began her career of activism as a student at Xinjiang University in the 1980s and has since founded the Campaign for Uyghurs, a humanitarian activist group.
“Rushan is a leading voice in the defense of Uyghurs’ human rights. As a result of her work, her sister, Dr. Gulshan Abbas, was believed to have been forcibly disappeared and detained in a camp in Xinjiang,” Rubio said in a statement. “As the Founder and Executive Director of Campaign for Uyghurs, Rushan has tirelessly raised awareness of the atrocities taking place in Xinjiang at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Abbas thanked Rubio in her own statement on Twitter, describing the mass incarceration, killing, and erasure of Uyghurs and their culture in China as a “genocide.”
I appreciate Senator Rubio’s leadership and his team’s relentless efforts against China’s brutality. I’m honored and privileged to attend the State of the Union as Senator Rubio’s guest and fight the genocide against Uyghurs by the CCP regime. https://t.co/VCd5RVGoPy
— Rushan Abbas (@rushan614) February 3, 2020
President Trump is expected to discuss his China policy in his speech tonight, among a wide variety of topics including border security, the war in Afghanistan, paid family leave, and healthcare. According to NPR, the White House has revealed two of the guests President Trump will highlight during the address: “Tony Rankins, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who got a job working on a project in an Opportunity Zone in Cincinnati; and Raul Ortiz, the deputy chief of U.S. Border Patrol.”