The United States strongly condemns the arrests by Hong Kong authorities of 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Catholic bishop of Hong Kong and outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, and three other prominent pro-democracy advocates, Margaret Ng, a lawyer and former legislator; Hui Po-keung, a scholar and former professor; and Denise Ho, an actress and singer.
The four were trustees of the now dissolved 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which was established in 2019 to provide financial and legal assistance to those who participated in pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.
They were falsely charged and arrested on May 11 for colluding with foreign forces and subsequently released on bail but could face sentences of life-imprisonment.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “In arresting these veteran activists, scholars, and religious leaders under the so-called National Security Law, Hong Kong authorities have again demonstrated that they will pursue all means necessary to stifle dissent and undercut protected rights and freedoms.”
Then White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called on “PRC and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong’s advocates,” noting that “freedom of expression is critical to prosperous and secure societies.”
Over the past several years, Beijing has been increasing its control over Hong Kong, arresting democracy activists, shuttering civil society groups, and forcing independent media organizations to close. The PRC has increasingly violated the fundamental freedoms of the people of Hong Kong that were guaranteed in the Basic Law and in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, when control of Hong Kong was transferred from Britain to the People’s Republic of China in 1997.
The arrests come just days after the only Chinese Communist Party-approved candidate for the Hong Kong chief executive position, former Hong Kong security chief John Lee Ka-chiu, took office.
After his so-called “election,” the Foreign Ministers of the G7 countries, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, published a statement expressing “grave concern over the selection process for the Chief Executive in Hong Kong as part of a continued assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms. We continue to call on China,” they declared, “to act in accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration and its other legal obligations.”