Blackburn, Colleagues Work to Defend Freedom of Expression in Hong Kong

October 24, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today led the introduction of new, bipartisan legislation that would ban the U.S. export of crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong Police Force. The legislation follows documented reports by human rights groups that U.S.-made police equipment has been used by Hong Kong police to violate the human rights of peaceful protesters during Hong Kong’s ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations.

“It is unacceptable that U.S. equipment is being used by Hong Kong police in the violent suppression of free speech,” said Senator Blackburn. “Our belief in freedom of expression is paramount to who we are as a nation. As we express our solidarity with the people of Hong Kong in their pro-democracy protests, we must extend that sentiment to reach our commercial sector.”

“Peaceful protesters are being subjected to state-sponsored oppression, violence, and human rights abuses for demonstrating in support of a democratic future for Hong Kong,” said Senator Merkley. “The U.S. should never be complicit in police violence against pro-democracy protests. As we support the voices calling for democratic reforms in Hong Kong, it’s time to ban the export of U.S.-made police equipment to Hong Kong.”

“The United States must do what we can to prevent U.S. crowd-control equipment from making its way into the hands of repressive forces,” said Senator Markey. “The authorities in Hong Kong have responded to popular action with police misconduct. I call on the Hong Kong police to cease their overreach and to provide timely access to lawyers, family members, and medical professionals for persons in custody.”

The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), James M. Inhofe (R- Okla.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).


Since June, residents of Hong Kong have been regularly staging public demonstrations in support of pro-democracy reforms. In recent months, the Hong Kong Police Force has cracked down on the protesters with increasing force.

As the demonstrations have continued, Amnesty International has documented incidents in which Hong Kong police used U.S.-made equipment against protesters, including:

  • Pepper spray;
  • Batons;
  • Rubber bullets;
  • Remington Model 870 launchers; and
  • Penn Arms GL-1 Compact 40mm single launchers.

In light of these abuses, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have called upon the U.S. government to suspend exports of crowd control products to Hong Kong. The Senators’ bipartisan legislation would meet this call and help ensure that American-made products are not being used to enable human rights violations abroad.