Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on Dec. 31 over its decision to hand down prison sentences to 10 Hongkongers who were arrested at sea in August by China’s coast guard.
The eight others who are over the age of 18 were sentenced to seven months imprisonment for “illegally crossing the border.” The Chinese court did not press charges against the two teens, and repatriated them back to Hong Kong on Wednesday. However, Hong Kong police have said that the two youngers may face additional charges for absconding.
Pompeo also critized the CCP and its “local lackeys” in Hong Kong for destroying the city’s rule of law and stripping away people’s freedoms. Hong Kong was a former British colony before it was handed back to China’s communist regime in 1997.
He added: “The ‘Hong Kong 12’ who tried to flee this tyranny deserved a hero’s welcome abroad, not capture, a secret trial, and prison sentences.”
Taiwan is one of the top destinations for Hongkongers fleeing their city. According to statistics from the Taiwan government, 5,858 Hongkongers applied for residency in Taiwan in 2019, an increase of 41 percent from 2018. The total jumped to 7,474 for the first ten months of this year.
“A regime that prevents its own people from leaving can lay no claim to greatness or global leadership. It is simply a fragile dictatorship, afraid of its own people,” Pompeo added.
He called on Beijing to immediately and unconditionally release the 10 Hongkongers who remain in the country.
Benedict Rogers, chief executive of British NGO Hong Kong Watch, expressed concern about the potential for mistreatment of the 10 Hongkongers in Chinese jails.
He warned the case could be a precedent for an alarming future. He explained: “It also could pave the way for more Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to be extradited and tried in the mainland.
“We urge the international community to continue to push for their release and return to Hong Kong and for coordinated and firm action against the continued deterioration of Hong Kong’s autonomy, freedoms, and way of life,” Rogers concluded.