Pompeo Criticizes Beijing, Hong Kong Government Over Use of National Security Law Against Student Activists

October 30, 2020 Updated: October 30, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned Beijing and the Hong Kong government over its recent arrest and detention of three student activists, saying that they should be freed immediately.

“The Beijing-controlled Hong Kong government continues to stifle dissent, repress public opinion, and use law enforcement for political purposes,” Pompeo stated on Oct. 29.

“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 added.

In 1984, China and the United Kingdom signed an international treaty called the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which outlined the terms of Hong Kong’s handover back to China in 1997.

Under the treaty, China’s ruling communist party promised to guarantee the city and its residents basic freedoms and autonomy not granted to mainland Chinese for at least 50 years after 1997 under a “one country, two systems” model.

The three students arrested on Tuesday—Tony Chung, Yanni Ho, and William Chan—were former members of Studentlocalism, a Hong Kong-based pro-independence organization. On June 30, the group announced that it would disband and cease all operations in Hong Kong just hours before Beijing imposed a national security law on the Chinese-ruled city.

In mid-October, a State Department report highlighted the erosion of the city’s freedoms following Beijing’s implementation of its so-called national security law, which punishes vaguely-defined crimes such as succession and subversion of the one-party communist state with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Studentlocalism took to its social media Tuesday morning announcing that 19-year-old Chung had been missing since 8 a.m. local time. It later confirmed that Chung was being detained at the city’s Central Police District headquarters.

According to the South China Morning Post, Chung was detained by the Hong Kong Police’s national security unit near the U.S. Consulate. U.K.-based group Friends of Hong Kong told Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily that Chung was on his way to the U.S. consulate seeking political asylum.

That same afternoon, Studentlocalism also announced that Ho and Chan had been arrested as they arrived at police stations as per the bail requirements over their July arrests. They were subsequently released on bail.

Chung, Ho, Chan, and another former Studentlocalism member were arrested on suspicion of inciting secession, violating the national security law, on July 29. According to local media, police are investigating their online posts calling for the establishment of a “Hong Kong nation.”

Chung made a court appearance on Oct. 29 and was charged on four counts, including for secession, according to Studentlocalism. He was denied bail and will remain in detention until his next court hearing on Jan. 7 next year.

Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International’s China Team, issued a statement on Thursday after Chung was denied bail, saying that the arrest was “politically motivated.”

“The charges brought against Tony Chung once again expose the Hong Kong government’s disdain for freedom of expression and dissent,” Rosenzweig said.

Rosenzweig added: “Tony Chung has been targeted solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and he should be released immediately and unconditionally, and all charges against him dropped.”

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer