Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) are headlining a bipartisan push to nominate the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
Rubio announced in a news release Tuesday that he and seven other members of Congress have submitted a nomination letter to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
In the letter, they urged the committee to recognize the "countless and often anonymous individuals [who] risked their lives, their health, their jobs, and their education to support a better future for Hong Kong."
"They have demonstrated civic courage, extraordinary leadership, and an unwavering commitment to a free and democratic Hong Kong that upholds the rule of law and fundamental human rights and freedom," the letter said. "This prize would honor the millions of people in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination have inspired the world."
What's the background?
Beginning in the spring 2019, large-scale protests broke out in Hong Kong contesting a proposed extradition bill that would allow China to more easily extradite fugitives to mainland China.
Opponents of the bill argued that it included no guarantee of a fair trial and that it would undermine the city's semi-autonomous status. The bill would essentially allow Chinese authorities to operate without restriction in the city, and Hong Kong residents felt that their freedom of expression was threatened.
The demonstrations kept growing and on June 16, 2019, one protest included over 2 million participants in a city of about 7.5 million, making it "one of the largest mass protests in history," the letter to the Nobel Peace Prize committee notes.
"The pro-democracy movement made five reasonable demands of the Hong Kong government: 1) withdraw the extradition bill; 2) conduct an independent inquiry into the police violence; 3) drop charges against all arrested protesters; 4) retract the characterization of the June protests as "riots"; and 5) the use of universal suffrage to elect the chief executive and legislative council members," the letter recalls.
In response, the Hong Kong government finally withdrew the extradition bill, but have continued to use violent force to combat protests and refer to the protesters as "rioters." The government has also refused to implement free elections.
Another notable nominee for the 2020 prize is teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was nominated by two Swedish lawmakers, in her second consecutive nomination.
According to the Associated Press, the two lawmakers argued that Thunberg "has worked hard to make politicians open their eyes to the climate crisis," and that "action for reducing our emissions and complying with the Paris Agreement is therefore also an act of making peace."
The deadline for submitting nominations for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize was Saturday, and now the committee will head into its next stage, which is determining the short list of nominees.
It won't be until October that Nobel laureates are chosen, and until December that they actually receive their prize.