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 LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (D-Vt.), Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Rep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Top Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-Miss.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Dems attempt to tie government funding, Ida relief to debt limit Poll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Milley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job 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 CruzSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Bipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops MORE (R-Texas), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns MORE (D-Calif.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Ohio Republican tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case Trump lawyer offered six-point plan for Pence to overturn election: book MORE (R-S.C.) and Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinOvernight Defense: First group of Afghan evacuees arrives in Virginia | Biden signs Capitol security funding bill, reimbursing Guard | Pentagon raises health protection level weeks after lowering it Biden pays tribute to late Sen. Levin: 'Embodied the best of who we are' Former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm dead at 85 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.