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Puerto Rico vs. Hong Kong: Hypocrisy in the Legislature?

In November of 2019, the U.S Congress enacted the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, possibly paving the way for economic sanctions and other diplomatic actions critical of the Hong Kong government.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said the passage of the bill was an important step in “holding accountable those Chinese and Hong Kong government officials responsible for Hong Kong’s eroding autonomy and human rights violations.”

“The United States Senate sent a clear message to Hongkongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: we hear you, we continue to stand with you, and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy,” Rubio said, as reported in Politico.

“The Congress is sending an unmistakable message to the world that the United States stands in solidarity with freedom-loving people of Hong Kong and that we fully support their fight for freedom,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post. “This has been a very unifying issue for us.”

The Asia Times has a different take on the position of Congress on Hong Kong. “While American politicians accuse China of disrespecting Hong Kong’s autonomy and not taking care of its people,” says an editorial, “many have conveniently forgotten that the United States is just as guilty in regards to Puerto Rico.”

The editorial points out the similarity of Hong Kong’s and Puerto Rico’s status relative to the nations that own them, saying, “Just as Hong Kong is part of China, Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China with a high degree of autonomy, while Beijing has supreme sovereignty over the city. Puerto Rico is a US territory with no statehood granted to it; it has its own government but Washington has the final jurisdiction over the island.”

The article goes on to point out the the people of Puerto Rico have no voting members in Congress. While Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States, they cannot vote in presidential elections.

“People of Puerto Rico have served in the US armed forces, pay US taxes and have fulfilled every obligation demanded of them as US citizens and yet when laws  are passed in Washington that will affect everyone on the island, its people don’t have any say. For years, Puerto Rico has fought hard to be granted statehood but it faces hurdles in Congress.”

The Asia Times goes on to point out that statehood won plebiscites on the Island in 2012 and 2017, but has not yet been addressed by Congress. They touch on the fact that Puerto Rico has been treated differently from the States when it comes to disaster repair and rebuilding.

“Will the Speaker of the House and the US Senate majority leader introduce a bill in Congress to require the Trump administration finally to live up to its responsibility to Puerto Rico? Will both chambers of Congress pass the bill with the same majority they gave to the Hong Kong bill?” the editorial asks. “And will the US Congress and the Trump administration pass and enact a law finally to grant statehood to Puerto Rico?”

The editorial concludes with a strong point: “Until the US does something about Puerto Rico, it will find it hard to have the moral authority to question other countries for their perceived shortfalls.”

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