Foreign ministers issue a joint statement condemning the arrest last week of more than 50 democracy activists in Hong Kong.
The foreign ministers of Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have expressed “grave concern” over the arrest of 55 democracy activists and supporters in Hong Kong last week.
In a joint statement on Sunday, the four foreign ministers called on China to respect the freedoms of the people in the semi-autonomous territory and condemned the use of a draconian national security law to make the arrests.
“It is clear that the National Security Law is used to suppress dissent and opposing political views,” the foreign ministers said.
The crackdown at dawn on Wednesday involved 1,000 police officers and was by far the largest such action taken since China imposed national security laws last year.
The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law – banning secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces – is needed to restore order in a city that was rocked in 2019 by months of protests often violent anti-government actions demanding greater democracy.
Most of those arrested last week had participated in an unofficial primary for a legislative election which was later postponed. Authorities say the primary was part of a plot to take control of the legislature to cripple the government and force the town chief to resign.
The 55 people have not been charged and all but three have been released on bail, pending further investigation. Convictions could prevent them from running for office.
The four foreign ministers said the next legislative election should include candidates representing a range of political opinions. Only half of the city’s legislature is elected by popular vote.
“We call on the central authorities of Hong Kong and China to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention,” they wrote.
The declaration was signed by Marise Payne from Australia, François-Philippe Champagne from Canada, Dominic Raab from the United Kingdom and Mike Pompeo from the United States.
On Thursday, Pompeo also said Washington could sanction those involved in the arrests and send the US ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan, an autonomous island claimed by China.
China sharply criticized the upcoming visit, while the Taiwanese government hailed it.
Pompeo also announced on Saturday that the United States was removing long-standing restrictions on how its diplomats and others have contact with their counterparts in Taiwan.
The actions in Taiwan and Hong Kong will undoubtedly anger China, which views these actions as foreign interference in its internal affairs.