Hawley Challenges NBA Over Hong Kong in Senate Speech: ‘It’s Time for You to Show a Little Backbone’

Senator Josh Hawley in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 11, 2019 (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Republican Senator Josh Hawley gave a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday urging his colleagues to support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong by imposing financial sanctions on Chinese officials, and challenging American corporations — including the NBA — to stand up for American values in the face of Chinese censorship.

“Sometimes in the course of history, the fate of one city defines the challenge of an entire generation,” Hawley declared.

Hawley, who has been an outspoken critic of China, visited Hong Kong earlier this month to witness the protests first-hand, and sent a letter on October 7 to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, stating “for the NBA to kowtow to the demands of one of the world’s most brutal regimes in the pursuit of profit is, frankly, revolting.”

The NBA has drawn scathing criticism for its handling of the situation surrounding Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose pro-Hong Kong tweet resulted in the league attempting to assuage Chinese outrage by distancing itself from Morey.

Two days after Hawley’s letter, a bipartisan letter from Congress was sent to Silver calling  it “outrageous that the NBA has caved to Chinese government demands for contrition.”

On Wednesday, Hawley continued the offensive, and challenged the NBA and other U.S corporations to stand up to Beijing.

“You may be multinational corporations who do business everywhere in the world, but remember that you are based here in the country,” Hawley said. “Remember — the NBA should — that they are an American corporation.”

“ . . . It’s time for these companies to remember where their loyalties actually lie. For too long now, for too many years now we’ve seen too many of these companies and these same corporate executives who make money hand-over-fist in China, we’ve seen them happily send our jobs to China, we’ve seen them happily outsource our work to China, and now they want to import censorship into this country from China.”

Hawley also called for Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a bill proposed on September 25 that calls for the State Department to reaffirm Hong Kong’s autonomous status, as well as level Magnitsky sanctions on Beijing officials complicit in Hong Kong’s suppression.

The Magnitsky Act, which was signed by former President Obama in 2012, is named after former Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after being jailed and beaten to death for investigating fraud involving Russian officials. The bill can be applied globally to freeze the assets of individuals identified by the United States as human rights violators.

“The situation in Hong Kong is urgent, and the people of Hong Kong are looking to the United States and to other freedom-loving peoples around the world for support and for strength,” Hawley concluded. “It’s time that we sent them the message and that we called on our allies to do the same, that we must stand with Hong Kong, because our own security and our own ideals are at stake.”

Hours before Hawley’s speech, news broke Wednesday that the Hong Kong government formally pulled the extradition bill which initially ignited the protests.

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