U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over what he called “political persecution” against four pro-democracy activists in the last two days.
“The use of courts to silence peaceful dissent is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes and underscores once again that the Chinese Communist Party’s greatest fear is the free speech and free thinking of its own people,” stated Pompeo in a Dec. 3 statement.
On Dec. 2, prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong and two of his longtime colleagues, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, were handed months-long sentences, for their roles in a mass protest that occurred in June last year.
A day later, Jimmy Lai, a media tycoon who owns the local newspaper Apple Daily, was denied bail following his arrest for alleged fraud. He will now be detained until April next year when he will have his next day in court. Apple Daily is known for publishing views supportive of Hong Kong protesters and critical of the Chinese regime.
“Hong Kong historically benefitted from a free and open system that celebrated the peaceful advocacy of citizens like Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam, and Jimmy Lai,” Pompeo stated.
He added: “Their struggle to resist the CCP’s denial of their fundamental rights will stand throughout history as a testament to the human spirit.”
Pompeo pointed out that people in Hong Kong should be able to exercise their rights as guaranteed under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The CCP and the United Kingdom signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, which paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover back to China in 1997. Under the treaty, the Basic Law was drafted, which is meant to guarantee Hongkongers basic freedoms that are not granted to mainland Chinese under the regime’s rule for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” model.
Article 27 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law guarantees Hongkongers basic freedoms, including speech, press, and assembly.
“The United States will continue to work with our allies and partners around the world to champion the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and all those who suffer under the CCP’s repressive rule,” Pompeo stated.
Many U.S. lawmakers have since voiced support for the four Hong Kong activists.
Calling the four “faces of true bravery,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) took to his Twitter account to say: “Communist China’s attempts to intimidate any who speak up against the regime & their human rights violations is pathetic.”
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said on Twitter that he was outraged by the plight of the four activists.
“These are clear attempts by the Chinese & HKSAR gov’t to silence dissent by weaponizing [Hong Kong]’s judicial system, for which independence is under siege,” Engel stated.
“Charging media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai with criminal fraud over alleged violations of the terms of a lease, and denying him bail, smacks of an attack on Hong Kong’s independent media,” stated Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program coordinator according to a statement.
Butler added: “China seems determined to crush what remains of Hong Kong’s once thriving free press, with disastrous consequences for the people of Hong Kong.”