US calls for immediate, unconditional release of 50 Hong Kong politicians

Washington: United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has slammed Beijing over the arrests of more than 50 politicians and pro-democracy advocates by local authorities in Hong Kong by calling it an outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) contempt for its own people.

Pompeo in a statement released on Wednesday called for the immediate and unconditional release of those jailed under the draconian National Security Law.

“Today’s arrest of more than 50 politicians and pro-democracy advocates by local authorities in Hong Kong is an outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for its own people and the rule of law. Those arrested are guilty of nothing but exercising the democratic rights promised to them by treaty, and due to them through virtue of their humanity. They should be released immediately and unconditionally,” the secretary of state said.

The outgoing top US diplomat added that the United States will not stand idle while the people of Hong Kong suffer under Communist oppression stating further that Washington will consider sanctions and other restrictions on any and all individuals and entities involved in executing this assault on Hong Kong people.

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“I am also appalled by the news of the arrest of an American citizen as part of this campaign of political repression. Let me be clear: The United States will not tolerate the arbitrary detention or harassment of U.S. citizens,” he said.

Pompeo again reiterated Washington’s support towards Hong Kong and all “who yearn for freedom”.

After Pompeo, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also condemned Beijing’s actions by calling it ” a grievous attack” on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms as protected under the Joint Declaration.

“These arrests demonstrate that the Hong Kong and Chinese authorities deliberately misled the world about the true purpose of the National Security Law, which is being used to crush dissent and opposing political views. The UK will not turn our backs on the people of Hong Kong and will continue to offer British Nationals (Overseas) the right to live and work in the UK,” he said in a statement.

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Over 50 opposition lawmakers and activists were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of violating the authoritarian national security law, for their part in a primary election run-off last July.

Among the arrested were former lawmakers James To Kun-sun, Lam Cheuk-ting, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu and Wu Chi-wai, as well as pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who helped organise the event, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Most of those had organised or taken part in primary contests held by the pan-democratic camp last July as part of a “35-plus” strategy to maximise its chances of taking control of the 70-member legislature.

According to the authoritarian security law, a principal offender convicted of subversion faces imprisonment of 10 years to life, while an “active participant” can be sentenced to between three and 10 years’ jail, while a minor can face a fixed term of not more than three years’ imprisonment or short-term detention or restriction.

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