Senators pressure US company to stop supplying tear gas to Hong Kong
Tear gas deployed in Hong Kong this month … Credit: Google images, Wikimedia Commons Studio Incendo, (image was cropped)

Republican Sen. Rick Scott is the latest lawmaker to express opposition to the sale of tear gas to Hong Kong. Police there are using U.S.-made crowd control gas canisters against pro-democracy demonstrators.

NonLethal Technologies, Inc., based in Homer City, Pennsylvania, is the supplier to Hong Kong police forces, as discovered via spent canisters with the company’s name stamped on them.

On Thursday, the Florida senator tweeted: “During my trip to #HongKong I met with pro-democracy leaders & I learned that Nonlethal Technologies, Inc provides the HK police with the tear gas used to oppress the people. This was a disturbing revelation & I’m requesting a meeting with the company’s leadership immediately.”

Scott included an image of the letter he sent to the company in his tweet. The letter reads:

As a United States manufacturer, you are blessed to enjoy the many freedoms and opportunities our nation has to offer. I am sure we can agree that America is the best country in the world, with infinite possibilities. Unfortunately, that autonomy does not exist everywhere. I recently traveled to Hong Kong to meet with protesters who are fighting every day for the basic human rights that we take for granted. I heard terrible stories of police brutality, imprisonment and intimidation.

President Xi of China is a human rights violator and a Communist dictator set on world domination. I am glad the United States is finally standing up to China as they threaten the security of America and all freedom-loving nations across the globe. We must all take a stand in the fight for freedom and democracy.

During my trip, I learned how Hong Kong authorities use crowd control methods, including rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, in an inhumane manner to silence protesters. I was extremely troubled to learn that apparently your company, NonLethal Technologies, has provided the Hong Kong police with tear gas that is now being used to oppress and violate the rights of the people of Hong Kong. I saw firsthand how your products are used in a dangerous and malicious manner to intentionally harm protesters. Crowd control devices are meant to be used as a tool in specific and limited circumstances by trained law enforcement, not to be used by oppressive governments to incite violence from peaceful protesters.

Your decision to provide these types of products to Hong Kong authorities is equivalent to supporting the efforts of President Xi to harm ordinary citizens and peaceful protesters. I have reached out to your company in an effort to meet with you and discuss my concerns echoed by the global community. I write today to request you meet with me as soon as possible to discuss the impact of NonLethal Technologies in Hong Kong, and your company’s continued support for our adversary, China.

I stand with the brave men and women fighting in Hong Kong, and will always fight for freedom and democracy. I look forward to your timely response and working together to put human rights above profits.

On Friday, the president of the privately owned company, Scott Oberdick, told Reuters that he had not seen the senator’s letter and hung up when he was asked about the growing criticism his company is getting for selling tear gas to the Hong Kong government.

The company’s website boasts “a full range of less lethal grenades and less lethal ammunition to allow the most effective level of force to be used for various situations.” The site also states that overseas sales for most products require an export license from the United States Department of Commerce.

The first U.S. official to call for a stop to exports of tear gas to Hong Kong was by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in July.

In August, Republican Rep. Chris Smith, of New Jersey, and Democrat James McGovern, from Massachusetts, introduced a bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives that would prohibit commercial exports of certain nonlethal crowd control items such as tear gas to Hong Kong. If passed, the ban would take effect within 30 days.

On the flip side, it’s certain that other tear gas producers around the world will step into the void and happily sell Hong Kong any weaponry or materiel they desire, so the only lasting impact such legislation would have would be to harm the U.S. companies involved and perhaps cost workers their jobs.

Meanwhile, the turmoil in Hong Kong continues to grow more pronounced and violent. Originally, protests emerged over an extradition bill that eventually was withdrawn, but now a broader movement against efforts by China to tamp down liberties still enjoyed by Hong Kong citizens has created a major crisis for the city and for China’s President Xi Jinping.




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