October 29, 2020
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday morning condemned the arrest of three student pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong by its police force and called for their release in an official press statement.
Over the past few years, mainland China‘s authoritarian regime has substantially furthered its control and influence over the Hong Kong Police Force as well as the city’s government. This has seen millions of Hong Kongers take to the streets to protest what they see as China stripping them of their autonomy, democracy, and basic human rights, and have even battled it out with police units.
“The United States strongly condemns the arrest and detention of three student democracy activists and calls on Hong Kong authorities to release those that remain detained immediately,” Pompeo wrote. “The Beijing-controlled Hong Kong government continues to stifle dissent, repress public opinion, and use law enforcement for political purposes.”
Sec. Pompeo also took to Twitter to express his dismay about the situation, tweeting: “We condemn the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong Police Force’s arrest of three student democracy activists and call for the immediate release of those that remain detained.”
Reporting on the story has seemingly varied between different publications, it should be noted. This is presumably due to the tight-lipped nature of public police reports in Hong Kong and the growing censorship of social media and the press there.
The three pro-democracy activists were arrested Tuesday when they briefly entered the city’s U.S. consulate in an apparent attempt to seek asylum, an unspecified person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.
The New York Times report, on the other hand, made no mention of them entering the consulate prior to arrest.
The Times reported that one of these activists, a 19-year-old named Tony Chung, was arrested at a coffee shop just across the street from the consulate, according to the U.K.-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong. The group also relayed the presumption that Chung’s plan was to enter the consulate and ask for asylum. Additionally, the paper shared in their report a 35-second video published by The South China Morning Post that shows what appears to be plain-clothes police leading Chung away in an area near the consulate.
The two associates of Chung also arrested on Tuesday were Yanni Ho and William Chan, said another group called Studentlocalism, per The Times. Chung, who co-founded the group, had previously been arrested in July over supposedly publishing a pro-independence social media post that violated the city’s national security law enacted in June. He was subsequently released on bail and had his passport confiscated while being investigated.
Lately, as the human rights situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate, many pro-democracy and pro-independence activists have been granted asylum in western countries such as the United States, Germany, and Canada. Complicating matters, however, the U.S. as a policy doesn’t grant asylum via its overseas diplomatic outposts.
China’s actions in Hong Kong have drawn international condemnation and has increasingly become a point of contention between the China and the United States. However, none of these condemnations have evidently slowed down China’s authoritarian behavior, as pro-democracy activists continued to be arrested and censored.
Lastly, in closing his statement, Sec. Pompeo accused China of violating its international human rights obligations.
“The People’s Republic of China has violated its international obligations under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, while the Chinese Communist Party and its Hong Kong proxies crush the promised autonomy of Hong Kong, and eviscerate Hong Kong’s respect for human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” he wrote.
“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong,” he added.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.