Lawmakers urge Obama to speak up for Hong Kong protesters

A bipartisan group of nearly two dozen lawmakers urged President Obama Thursday to publicly support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Obama should "speak out personally" to support the protesters and his administration should "take demonstrable, meaningful steps to help ensure that Beijing maintains its commitments to the people of Hong Kong,” the 21 lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president.

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The group, spearheaded by Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHorowitz offers troubling picture of FBI's Trump campaign probe Horowitz: 'We found no bias' in decision to open probe Horowitz: 'Very concerned' about FBI leaks to Giuliani MORE (D-Vt.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerLet's enact a privacy law that advances economic justice There's a lot to like about the Senate privacy bill, if it's not watered down Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield MORE (R-Miss.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling MORE (R-Fla.), said they "strongly support the Hong Kong people's aspiration for universal suffrage and full democracy."

"Hong Kong’s economic prosperity and position as Asia's 'world city' is rooted in fundamental rights, including freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression, and the press," the letter said. 

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Senate passes Armenian genocide resolution Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE (R-Texas), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSanders endorses Young Turks founder Cenk Uygur for Katie Hill's former House seat Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' Senate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating MORE (D-Calif.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Graham: People should be fired over surveillance report findings GOP, Trump campaign rip CNN for coverage of Horowitz hearing MORE (R-S.C.) and Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinRemembering leaders who put country above party Strange bedfellows oppose the filibuster Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home MORE (D-Mich.) are among the lawmakers who signed the letter.

A week of mass protests in support of democratic reforms in Hong Kong gained international attention and sparked worries that authorities in China would respond with a violent crack down. Beijing has restricted democratic reforms in Hong Kong and is requiring that only candidates vetted by the Communist Party can run for chief executive.

Lawmakers accused Beijing of "backsliding on its commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration," under which China promised to respect Hong Kong’s freedoms.

The lawmakers said the president has authority to suspend some trade ties and government contacts if China does not honor its promises.

The White House has urged Hong Kong authorities to "exercise restraint,” but the lawmakers said the U.S. should offer more support for the protesters.

“The Administration should be speaking out more forcefully on behalf of the people of Hong Kong who are trying to exercise self-determination,” added Wicker in a statement.

“The people of Hong Kong have sent a strong message to the world that they want the right to choose their leaders to be respected,” Leahy said in a statement.