International Outcry After 47 Opposition Figures in Hong Kong Charged Under National Security Law

February 28, 2021 Updated: February 28, 2021

The United States, United Kingdom, European Union, and Taiwan have voiced concern at the Hong Kong government’s subversion charges directed at 47 pro-democracy activists under the pro-Beijing national security law on Sunday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to Twitter late on Sunday night to condemn the detentions and charges against the activists, saying that “freedom of expression” should not be a crime.

A State Department spokesperson also told The Epoch Times in an email, “The United States condemns the re-detention of these individuals under Hong Kong’s National Security Law. We call on the Hong Kong authorities to immediately release those still held and to drop the charges against them.

“Political participation should never be a crime. These individuals simply sought to exercise their rights by participating or helping others to participate in elections. This is yet another example of how the National Security Law is used to stifle dissent, not improve security,” the spokesperson added.

The subversion charge was in connection to participation in an unofficial primary vote held by Hong Kong’s pan-democracy camp in July last year, ahead of the Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in September 2020. The objective behind the vote was for the camp to field the most promising candidates to run for legislative office—ultimately with the goal to secure a majority or more than 35 seats in LegCo.

Over 600,000 Hongkongers cast ballots in the primary vote, which were held on July 11 and July 12 last year.

The LegCo elections, initially scheduled for Sept. 6 last year, were eventually postponed by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, at that time citing the local surge in CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infections, which causes the disease COVID-19.

“We continue to call on Beijing to stop undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and democratic processes and to uphold China’s obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the spokesperson concluded.

Among those charged were former lawmakers Claudia Mo, Leung Kwok-hung, and Alvin Yeung; district counselors Jimmy Sham and Tiffany Yeun; and Benny Tai, former Hong Kong University law professor and organizer of the primary elections.

They were detained overnight and are scheduled to appear at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

Epoch Times Photo
Yellow banners outside of the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court in Hong Kong on March 1, 2021. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times)

On Sunday, pro-democracy organization Civil Human Rights Front issued a statement on Facebook urging Hongkongers to queue up for the court hearing the next day to support the 47 activists.

At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, nearly 1,000 locals have shown up outside of the courthouse voicing support, many queueing up for the court hearing. Many chanted “Release all political prisoners” while others gestured five fingers, which represent the five demands including universal suffrage that Hong Kong protesters have been calling for since they took to the streets in mass protests in June 2019.

Epoch Times Photo
Hongkongers hold up five fingers in support of 47 pro-democracy activists charged under the national security law in Hong Kong on March 1, 2021. (Sung Pi-lung/The Epoch Times)

On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab took to Twitter to say that the decision to charge the 47 activists was “deeply disturbing.”

“It shows in the starkest terms the NSL [national security law] being used to eliminate political dissent rather than restore order—contrary to what the Chinese government promised,” Raab wrote.

In a statement on Facebook, the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao said the charge was of “great concern.”

“The nature of these charges makes clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong,” it wrote. “The EU calls for the immediate release of those arrested.”

Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister, critized the CCP over the subversion charge on Twitter.

“This proves the #CCP cares nothing for freedom & individual rights, only power,” Wu wrote, before adding a few words of encouragement to the 47 activists. “Friends! Hang in there. Long & dark is the night, but the sun always rises.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called on the Biden administration to take further action.

“The Biden administration should invoke the sanctioning powers established in the Hong Kong Autonomy Act to hold accountable those responsible for this aggression,” Toomey wrote.

The Hong Kong Epoch Times Bureau contributed to this report. 

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer