Arrests in Hong Kong continue, with 11 people taken into custody Thursday for allegations of helping pro-democracy activists and legislators attempt to escape by boat to Taiwan last year. In December, 10 of the 12 people attempting to flee for their “crime” of involvement in pro-democracy protests, were sentenced to jail time ranging from 7 months to 3 years. Those arrested Thursday were between the ages of 18 and 72 years old. Among them was Daniel Wong Kwok-tung, a district council member and attorney “known for providing legal assistance to hundreds of activists arrested during antigovernment protests in 2019.” Hong Kong, previously semi-autonomous from mainland China, became subject to new national security laws in June of last year. Since then, the area has experienced growing unrest as democracy and freedoms have been stripped away by the Chinese government. Last week, 53 people were also arrested for what officials say were “subversive acts” attempting to “paralyze the Hong Kong government.”
The West condemns the Chinese government’s crackdown and arrests. The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “has called for the release of all people who were on board the boat, saying their so-called crime was to flee tyranny.” He has threatened “new sanctions against China” in response. In a joint statement last week, foreign ministers of United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia condemned the arrests and said “it is clear that the National Security Law is being used to eliminate dissent and opposing political views.” The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Taiwan, which is a self-governed region, stated, “The mass arrest in #HongKong comes as a deep shock to those who treasure freedom” and called on the “free world” to “unite against authoritarianism: No more room for ambiguity!”
“There is a good chance Beijing authorities will achieve what they want to achieve: literally, silencing any kind of dissent, including free speech, including by very peaceful means and formal legal channels. Hong Kong is fast becoming like the rest of China.”Victoria Tin-bor Hui, Hong Kong native and Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame
Chinese government leaders criticized the “hypocrisy” of U.S. government leaders after U.S. leaders strongly condemned recent riots/protests in the United States but previously, have expressed support for protests in Hong Kong. “I ask foreign audiences to set aside their double standards. It seems like if they look at affairs of Hong Kong and of the mainland [China] they use a very different standard than the one applied to their own country,” stated Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Lam’s administration has been strongly criticized for its role in stripping away human rights.