October 1, the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, has become a date to protest in Hong Kong against China’s efforts to deprive the island city of its autonomy and fundamental freedoms. This year, Hong Kong’s government banned a proposed march by the pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front and deployed some 6,000 police to patrol the streets.
Several hundred people showed up to protest anyway, and police arrested at least 86. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus expressed “outrage . . at the Hong Kong government’s arbitrary arrest,” of peaceful protesters.
Other Hong Kongers expressed their dissent by openly reading the pro-democracy paper Apple Daily, sometimes in front of the police, according to press reports. The newspaper’s founder Jimmy Lai was arrested in August under the draconian national security law.
The national security law was passed in June and punishes anything China deems as subversion, separatism, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.
Protesters also called for the return of 12 Hong Kong citizens who were arrested at sea by Chinese authorities in August as they tried to escape to democratic Taiwan.Some of them faced serious charges for their pro-democracy activities.Chinese authorities have refused to return the 12 to Hong Kong and waited over a month before charging them. They have not been allowed to communicate publicly or meet with lawyers of their choice, according to press reports.
“We deplore the local authorities’ continued use of law enforcement for political purposes,” said Ms. Ortagus, “which is contrary to the preservation of the rule of law, and respect for human rights, including the rights to assembly and free expression. These arrests again underscore Beijing’s complete dismantlement of One Country Two Systems that the [People’s Republic of China] promised to uphold.”
A stable and prosperous Hong Kong depends on honoring the rights of assembly, free speech, and other fundamental freedoms. By repressing peaceful public opinion, the Hong Kong government once again shows its complicity with the Chinese Communist Party’s evisceration of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms of its people.