NEW YORK (June 9, 2020) — On the one-year anniversary of Hong Kong’s million-person march defending the city’s freedom, the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has released a report that reveals how the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has signaled that foreign companies operating in China must help advance the CCP’s agenda or face expulsion from the Chinese market.
Since China’s rise as a global trade giant, the CCP has leveraged its position in the global economy to intimidate foreign companies, such as Mercedes-Benz, United Airlines, and Nike, into becoming messengers of its political ideology and apologists for the regime.
“Many foreign companies that do business in China increasingly find themselves betraying the liberal values they were founded upon to placate the authoritarian pressure from the Chinese government,” said Joy Park, legal counsel for Asia. “The corporate responsibility to respect international human rights exists independently from compliance with local Chinese law, and sometimes corporate compliance with local laws may in fact cause human rights abuses.”
The report concludes that the Chinese government’s manipulation of foreign companies saw a sharp rise in the summer and fall of 2019 during the Hong Kong anti-extradition law protests, when the CCP aggressively targeted foreign companies for their use of marketing materials that may suggest their support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.
In laying out the international standards governing business and human rights, HRF’s report presents the obligations of companies to uphold fundamental human rights, including various U.S. standards and regulations, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Global Magnitsky Act, and environmental, social, and governance factors that companies should consider while doing business in China.
In response to pressure from the Chinese government, the report recommends that companies adhere to international guidelines on business and human rights, and respect the fundamental human rights outlined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.