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Hong Kong protests

US lawmakers nominate Hong Kong democracy movement for Nobel

Protesters merit peace prize for bravery, bipartisan group in Congress says

Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow after their arrest in 2019: Both have been arrested again since China enacted a security law covering Hong Kong last year.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has nominated Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement for the Nobel Peace Prize, months after Beijing warned against anyone "politicizing" the award.

The nomination intends to "commemorate all those who have built and maintained human rights and democracy in Hong Kong since 1997 and give voice to those fighting in recent years against the erosion of rights and freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong's citizens by international treaty and the city's constitution," five senators and four House members said in a letter released Wednesday.

The legislators cited recent efforts to "actively suppress voices for human rights and democracy" and noted that many democracy advocates are in jail or exile.

The peace prize "would honor their bravery and determination that have inspired the world," the lawmakers said in the letter, dated Jan. 31 and addressed to Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

Signatories include Rep. Jim McGovern and Sen. Jeffrey Alan Merkley, both Democrats, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Vicky Hartzler, both Republicans.

The nomination comes half a year after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned against giving such an award to Hong Kong protesters on a visit to Norway.

"In the past, today and in the future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China's internal affairs," Wang said during a news briefing with his Norwegian counterpart, Ine Eriksen Soreide. "The position of the Chinese side is rock firm on this principle."

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, and the recognition of the now-deceased activist strained relations between Beijing and Oslo until 2016.

Beijing also has warned Washington repeatedly against "interference in [China's] internal affairs in Hong Kong" and elsewhere.

"The United States should stop interference in the affairs of Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang, which all matter to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Yang Jiechi, head of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Foreign Affairs Commission, said at an event organized by the New York-based National Committee on United States-China Relations this week.

Yang, who called former U.S. President Donald Trump's China policies a "strategic misjudgment," expressed hopes that President Joe Biden will keep Sino-American relations "on the right track." But the Biden administration is sticking to its predecessor's framing of U.S.-China relations as a "strategic competition."

On a polarized Capitol Hill, support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters has been bipartisan. Last year, Congress passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act by unanimous consent after Beijing enacted a national security law covering Hong Kong.

Nearly 100 people in Hong Kong have been arrested under the security law. High-profile democracy activists jailed during the past six months include Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong, while others such as Nathan Law have relocated overseas.

The security law is seen widely by the international community as a violation of Beijing's pledge that Hong Kong would have a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after the city's handover to China in 1997.

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