• H.K. demonstrators faced repression, intimidation: Rubio
  • Republican presidential hopeful demands more China scrutiny

Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio is demanding closer scrutiny of China’s actions in Hong Kong, accusing the nation of tightening its grip there since 2014 pro-democracy protests.

“We’ve seen booksellers disappear, academic and media freedom shrinking, and growing disaffection among Hong Kong’s youth,” Florida Senator Rubio said in a statement. “The trajectory is troubling and merits greater attention from the Obama administration.” Rubio is co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

The pending trial of Joshua Wong and fellow protest leaders -- whose September 2014 arrests sparked clashes with riot police -- will serve as an important indicator of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the extent of the former British colony’s freedoms, Rubio and fellow chairman Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican congressman, said in the statement.

Critics of China see an erosion of the “One Country, Two System” concept that the U.K. agreed to before returning Hong Kong in 1997, and have raised concerns over events including the disappearance of Lee Bo, owner of a store that sells books critical of China’s Communist Party. Chinese police have confirmed Lee, who’s also known as Lee Po, was in China after vanishing from Hong Kong in late December.

“It is against this backdrop that Joshua’s case goes to trial,” Rubio said in the statement. “We will be watching closely how it is handled. He and his fellow students represent the future of Hong Kong, not Beijing’s tired tactics of repression and intimidation.”

Rubio trails Donald Trump in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, after placing second in Nevada caucuses, second in South Carolina, fifth in New Hampshire and third in Iowa.

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