The People’s Republic of China continues its campaign to dismantle democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, and pro-democracy advocates continue to suffer for their support of fundamental freedoms.
On April 1, seven of Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy activists were convicted of unauthorized assembly for their participation in a peaceful protest in August 2019. Among them are 82 year old barrister Martin Lee and media mogul Jimmy Lai. Other peaceful protestors include former opposition lawmaker Margaret Ng and veteran activists Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung-Kwok, Albert Ho, and Cyd Ho.
On April 8, in a separate case, Jimmy Lai and Lee Cheuk-yan, as well as activist Yeung Sam, pleaded guilty to participating in an illegal march. "I plead guilty, but I've done no wrong in affirming the rights of people to peaceful procession and I believe history will absolve me," Lee said.
The massive protests in Hong Kong in 2019 broke out in response to opposition to an extradition bill that would see Hong Kong citizens tried in Mainland courts. In recent months, the PRC has implemented a draconian national security law (NSL) and fundamental changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system which drastically reduced the number of directly-elected seats in Hong Kong’s legislature. In addition, thousands of protesters and many prominent pro-democracy leaders have been arrested under the NSL and other statutes.
Speaking of the April 1 conviction of the seven pro-democracy Hong Kong activists, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price called the charges against them “politically motivated,” once again showing, he said, “the degree to which the PRC and Hong Kong authorities seek to crush all forms of peaceful dissent in the city.”
“The United States continues to condemn the PRC’s continuing assault on fundamental freedoms and democratic institutions in Hong Kong…The United States continues to stand with those millions of Hong Kongers who have peacefully demonstrated to protect the autonomy and freedoms promised to them by the PRC.”
Pointing to the sanctions the United States imposed on Chinese officials in March for undermining Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms, Spokesperson Price added, “We will continue to hold to account those authorities in Beijing, those authorities in Hong Kong who seek to erode those fundamental freedoms and those autonomies to which Hong Kong is due.”