Hong Kong police recently arrested 15 pro-democracy advocates on charges for unlawful assembly. These activists were rounded up for participating in protests that took place between August and October last year.
The United States, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement, “condemns the arrest of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong.”
Among those arrested was 81-year-old lawyer and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee. Fellow lawyer and former legislator Margaret Ng, media head Jimmy Lai, and former opposition legislators Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung were also rounded up, according to press reports. These arrests marked one of the biggest crackdowns on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong since the start of protests in June 2019.
The Hong Kong protests were triggered by plans to allow extradition of the city’s citizens to mainland China. Critics feared such a move would risk exposing Hong Kong citizens to unfair trials and violent treatment. They also argued that the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and that it could be used to target activists and journalists.
After weeks of protests by hundreds of thousands of people, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam said the bill would be suspended indefinitely. In September, the bill was withdrawn. But demonstrations continued along with demands including full democracy and an independent inquiry into police actions against the demonstrators.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr condemned the Chinese Communist Party’s latest “assault on the rule of law and the liberty of the people of Hong Kong.” These arrests, he said, “show how antithetical the values of the Chinese Communist Party are to those we share in Western liberal democracies. These actions -- along with its malign influence activity and industrial espionage here in the United States -- demonstrate once again that the Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted."
Secretary of State Pompeo warned that “Beijing and its representatives in Hong Kong continue to take actions inconsistent with commitments made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration that include transparency, the rule of law, and guarantees that Hong Kong will continue to ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy.’”