Hong Kong Activist Law Meets With Pompeo in London

July 22, 2020 Updated: July 30, 2020

Hong Kong activist Nathan Law met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 21 in London to discuss Beijing’s newly implemented national security law for the Chinese-ruled city.

Pompeo, who was in London for a two-day visit, also held talks with his British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Law announced on July 2 that he had fled Hong Kong out of concern for his own safety after Beijing formally adopted the national security law on June 30. He had kept his whereabouts secret before revealing on July 13 that he had arrived in London.

The law criminalizes individuals for any acts of subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with maximum penalties of life imprisonment.

Immediately after the law was adopted, several opposition groups in Hong Kong disbanded, including the pro-democracy party Demosisto; Law was a former chairman of the party.

On July 22, he revealed on his Twitter and Facebook accounts about what was discussed during the one-on-one meeting with Pompeo, which Law said lasted for over 20 minutes.

Calling his talks with Pompeo “very constructive and in-depth,” Law wrote that he shared his thoughts on why he chose to flee Hong Kong, as well as the “difficult situations” that frontline protesters in Hong Kong face, by either choosing to stay in the city or flee.

The continuing protest movement in Hong Kong erupted in June last year, when millions gathered in protest against the since-scrapped extradition bill. Since then, the movement has evolved to advocate for greater democracy, such as universal suffrage in city elections.

Law also said he shared his thoughts about the more than 600,000 voters who took part in recent primary voting—the large turnout showed Hongkongers’ determination in their fight for freedom and democracy, he said. Hong Kong’s government is dominated by pro-Beijing politicians, with the opposition comprising pro-protest figures.

The primary elections, organized by local political association Power for Democracy, were held for two days beginning on July 11, with the aim of selecting the most promising candidates to run for legislative office. In the election scheduled for Sept. 6, the opposition camp hopes to win a majority, or more than 35 seats, in the city’s legislature.

He also voiced concern that Beijing might meddle in the September elections, in ways that may include disqualifying certain candidates so that they won’t appear on the ballot.

After winning a seat on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in 2016, Law and several other pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified because they altered their oath of office, which includes a sentence stating allegiance to the Chinese regime’s rule over the city. A court ruled that Law and the others had failed to take their oaths properly.

He asked for a “strong reaction” from the international community if candidates are disqualified.

Pompeo and Law also discussed China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet.

“We exchanged our views on some of Beijing’s policies, and how the international community should remodel their policies toward China, in order to highlight the values of democracy,” Law wrote on Facebook.

The meeting was requested by Pompeo, Law said. He thanked the U.S. Embassy in London and Hong Kong Watch, a British NGO, for arranging the meeting.

Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post reported on meetings between Law and Pompeo, citing an unidentified person with direct knowledge of the meeting.

“Law did most of the talking. He gave Pompeo a human element to the movement–what life is like in Hong Kong at the moment,” the person said, before adding that Pompeo was “very interested in hearing the perspective of what it’s like to be on the ground in Hong Kong and the nature of the movement.”

Hongkongers’ confidence in the city’s political and judicial systems has slumped amid the imposition of the security law, according to a recent poll released by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) on July 21, that surveyed 1,001 Hong Kong residents by phone between July 6 and July 9.

Indicators for degree of freedom, democracy, rule of law, and stability slipped to 4.84, 4.37, 4.14, and 4.12, from 5.58, 4.61, 4.45, and 4.44, respectively, in the previous poll conducted in April.

Freedom, democracy, and rule of law indicators all registered “all-time lows since records began in 1997,” when the territory was transferred from British to Chinese rule, according to the poll.

Other indicators, such as freedoms of publication, speech, association, press, strike, and demonstrations, also dropped lower compared to those in the April poll. For example, freedom of speech dropped from 5.24 in April to 4.39 in July.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer