Gov. Newsom announced his plan to visit Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, and Jiangsu during the week of Oct. 22 to discuss climate policy. Notably, his administration has stated he will avoid addressing contentious topics including “human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang,” deeming these matters “federal issues” to be handled by “federal partners,” according to Politico.
We are deeply disappointed by Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to explicitly turn away from engaging on critical human rights issues — given the deteriorating civil liberties and freedoms in Hong Kong, the arbitrary detainment of the Uyghur people in East Turkistan, the escalating human rights situation in occupied Tibet, and tightening grasp on fundamental freedoms by the Chinese government — in his upcoming trip to Hong Kong and mainland China. Human rights should never be dismissed or sidelined, especially by an elected leader traveling internationally. As the first high-profile U.S. official to visit Hong Kong since the National Security Law (N.S.L.), Gov. Newsom’s poor messaging sets a problematic tone for future diplomatic engagement.
We question why Gov. Newsom has decided to travel to Hong Kong and mainland China at this time. While he will ostensibly visit China for climate issues as a foreign dignitary, he is pledging not to speak on connected concerns vital to his constituency. We share his commitment to combating anti-Asian hate but fail to see how meetings with officials of an authoritarian regime abroad achieve that stated objective. He should instead listen to his constituents who face both racism here and well-documented instances of transnational repression directed by the Chinese Communist Party.
While he enjoys the freedom and safety of visiting Hong Kong and mainland China, his constituents who are in exile cannot return home without being immediately detained. Among over 100,000 residents in California born in Hong Kong, many have family members and friends threatened by the ongoing political crackdown. As governor, he has a responsibility to defend the interests of his constituents.
Additionally, Gov. Newsom’s visit undermines the federal sanctions placed on numerous Hong Kong officials. Chief Executive John Lee, sanctioned in 2020 because of his role in implementing the N.S.L., has already been barred by the Biden administration from attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November. We demand that Gov. Newsom does not meet with Lee or any other sanctioned officials in Hong Kong.
Leaders must recognize the interconnectedness of global issues. By detaching climate justice from other aspects of social justice and dismissing human rights issues as “federal matters,” Gov. Newsom’s trip will help justify the collective lack of progress. We urge him to seriously reconsider how to best use his platform both in California and around the world by acting on the following items:
- Demand the release of all 1,672 political prisoners in Hong Kong, including climate activist Eddie Chu, Jimmy Lai, Joshua Wong, Chow Hang-tung, and other elected officials and pro-democracy advocates. Work with the American consulate in Hong Kong to request in-person prison visits;
- Demand the release of all political prisoners, including Wang Bingzhang, Qin Yongmin, Gao Zhisheng, Yang Maodong, Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhang Zhan, and other human-rights advocates in mainland China;
- Raise the escalating human rights abuses in Tibet including the residential school system that has seen at least one million Tibetan children separated from their families and communities and the imprisonment of countless Tibetan environment human rights defenders;
- Address the human-rights violations against Uyghurs, which the U.S. recognizes as genocide. Call for the release of all arbitrarily detained Uyghurs in prison and forced labor camps. Call for companies in California not to source material from East Turkistan so as to not be complicit in Uyghur Forced Labor.
View endorsements from 60+ community and international human rights organizations: https://tinyurl.com/NewsomChina-web