Foreign ministers from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia expressed ‘serious concern’ about last week’s arrest of over 50 democracy activists in Hong Kong, in a sweeping crackdown under the city’s national security law.
“We call on the Hong Kong and Chinese central authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention,” said the foreign ministers in a joint statement issued on Sunday.
“It is clear that the national security law is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views,” the four foreign ministers said.
Hong Kong police made the arrests on Wednesday in dawn raids, the biggest crackdown since China imposed a security law in 2020, which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony.
The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law is needed to restore order in a city that was rocked in 2019 by months of often violent anti-government protests demanding greater democracy.
Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy advocates were arrested as authorities said last year’s unofficial primary to choose opposition candidates in city elections was part of a plan to “overthrow” the government.
Authorities allege the primary was part of a plot to take control of the legislature in order to paralyse government and force the city’s leader to resign.
The 55 have not been charged, and all but three have been released on bail pending further investigation. Convictions could disqualify them from running for office.
The four foreign ministers said the next legislative election should include candidates representing a range of political opinions. Only half the city’s legislature is elected by popular vote.
The statement was signed by Marise Payne of Australia, Francois-Philippe Champagne of Canada, Dominic Raab of the UK and Mike Pompeo of the US.
Separately, Pompeo announced on Saturday that the US was voiding longstanding restrictions on how its diplomats and others have contact with their counterparts in Taiwan, a self-governing island that China says should be under its rule.
The actions on Taiwan and Hong Kong will undoubtedly anger China, which views such moves as foreign interference in its internal affairs.
The Trump administration, which is in its final days, is also sending Kelly Craft, its ambassador to the United Nations, to Taiwan later this week. China has sharply criticised the upcoming visit, while the Taiwan government has welcomed it. (Source: The Guardian)