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Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have finally found something they can agree on: that the Hong Kong protest movement should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The bipartisan nomination is a rare moment of unity on Capitol Hill after months of bickering about impeachment, but it could once again anger the Chinese government, which has long claimed the U.S. is working behind the scenes to influence the pro-democracy protests that have turned increasingly violent.
The Republican signatories could also anger President Donald Trump, who last month said he deserved the prize.
On Tuesday, the bipartisan group of senators and representatives, led by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), signed a letter calling for the protesters to be awarded the prestigious prize.
The lawmakers propose giving the award to the protesters “in recognition of their efforts to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights, and the rule of law” adding that many had “risked their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education to support a better future for Hong Kong.”
The letter says the protesters represent a broad spectrum of Hong Kong society, adding that “the entire city is engaged in a movement both unique and inspiring in its size, scope, and creativity. The protesters are savvy and have used peaceful and innovative methods of expression including art, music, lasers, projections on buildings, and joining hands across Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong’s protests began last June with a series of huge, peaceful marches through the city’s streets. However, they soon descended into violent clashes with armed police, who were accused of excessive force to suppress the protesters, using water cannons, tear gas, and even live rounds.
The prize would ”honor the millions of people in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination have inspired the world,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that the group was “impressively organized and coherent, yet notably leaderless and flexible.”
The nomination comes at a hugely tense time for Chinese-American relations. The U.S. and China have signed a partial trade deal that will see China increase purchases of goods and services over two years by $200 billion. But Beijing is struggling to cope with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak that has killed almost 500 people and infected 24,500.
Beijing has criticized the U.S.’ decision to impose a travel ban on foreign nationals who have recently visited China, calling Washington’s move an “overreaction” and saying that “the U.S. government hasn’t provided any substantial assistance” to China.
The nomination will also resurface accusations of foreign interference that arose just months after the protests began last year. In August, the Chinese government claimed the U.S. was the “behind-the-scenes black hand creating chaos in Hong Kong.”
In recent weeks, the protest movement has lost some momentum and the outbreak of the coronavirus has overtaken media coverage, but the Hong Kong government continues to warn of the dangers the protests present.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has warned Western diplomats that they now fear a radical element of the pro-democracy movement could escalate the protests with a bombing campaign, according to the Financial Times.
The warnings come a week after police in the city-state arrested four people for “conspiracy to manufacture explosives” and “conspiracy to wound with intent.” The three men and one woman were arrested in relation to the discovery of a plot to build remote-controlled bombs last month.
Cover: A local resident struggles with riot police at the Fai Ming Estate, in Fanling district of Hong Kong, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, after the Hong Kong government announced it would requisition an unoccupied housing project to house quarantined patients of the new viral coronavirus illness. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)