U.S. lawmakers published a letter Wednesday calling for members of the Hong Kong pro-democracy campaign to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in honor of "their bravery and determination that have inspired the world."
Nine members of the Congressional Commission on China recommended the award go to everyone who has been part of a broader push for democracy since the territory was handed back to China in 1997 as part of a treaty with former colonial ruler Britain.
"I'm thankful that the international community has not forgotten about our struggle for freedom," U.S.-based Hong Kong activist and former Demosisto member Jeffrey Ngo told Business Times on Thursday.
In July last year, China passed a National Security Law for Hong Kong that Beijing said was needed to prevent subversion of the government, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong. Human rights groups call the law overly broad.
In the wake of the law, two of the three founding Demosisto members, a pro-democracy forum started in April 2016 by Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, are now in jail, while a third, Nathan Law, has fled Hong Kong and has admitted he may never be able to safely visit his hometown again.
The nomination received support on both sides of the aisle, with five Democrats and four Republicans including U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Representative Jim McGovern acting as co-signatories.
It's a rare moment of unity in the American political community. "At a time of deep divisions in Washington, we're reminded that the support we receive is always bipartisan and bicameral in nature," Ngo said.
"Indeed, every major piece of legislation that passed over the past two years, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the PROTECT Hong Kong Act, and the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, enjoyed overwhelming backing across both sides of the aisle."
The U.S. last year supported sanctions against Hong Kong and mainland Chinese government officials who have been involved with human rights abuses in the city.
"We hope that the Nobel committee will continue to shine a light on those struggling for peace and human rights in China and we believe the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is deserving of recognition this year."
Observers estimate up to 2 million people crowded the streets of Causeway Bay in 2019 to protest a later-suspended extradition bill and call for city leader Carrie Lam to step down.
Since then, roughly 10,225 people have been arrested. Tony Chung, 19, was the most recent protester to be charged in late December 2020 and he is serving a four month prison term for desecrating the national flag according to Hong Kong Watch.
"Many more [activists] are awaiting trials where they are expected to be convicted and sentenced in the coming months for the sole reason of peacefully expressing their political views through speech, publication, elections, or assembly," the U.S. lawmakers noted in their letter.