Saturday, July 20, 2024

Five Democracy Protesters in Hong Kong Seek Asylum in the United States | Hong Kong News

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Five Hong Kong democracy protesters who have reportedly fled to Taiwan have arrived in the United States with the intention of seeking asylum, an activist group said on Saturday.

Their escape follows the mass arrests of leading democracy figures in Hong Kong under a new national security law that is part of a growing Chinese crackdown on the financial center.

The Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), an American group, said it hosted a group of young activists in the United States this week and that their journey had been “arduous and perilous.”

“The activists, all under the age of 30, took part in the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, faced arrests and protest-related charges, and fled the city by boat last July,” said Samuel Chu, founder of HKDC. AFP.

“I am relieved and delighted to welcome them to the United States and help them with their asylum claim and find a new life,” Chu added.

In a statement released by the HKDC, the five activists currently in exile said their hearts were “filled with anguish and all kinds of emotions” from the moment they left Hong Kong.

Taiwanese media reported in August that the five men tried to flee to the autonomous island in late July and were intercepted by its authorities.

Taiwan officials have since kept a low profile on the case, declining to comment.

Perilous border crossing

After huge democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 in which more than 11,000 people were arrested, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in late June to silence dissent.

In August, another group of 12 Hong Kong activists, including one arrested under the National Security Act, attempted to flee by speedboat to Taiwan, but were arrested by the Chinese Coast Guard.

Last month, a Chinese court jailed 10 of the 12 fugitives for up to three years for “organizing and participating in an illegal border crossing.”

Chu said the five Hong Kong people could easily have perished at sea or suffered the same fate as the “Hong Kong 12” without the help of ardent supporters who provided them shelter and protection along the way.

“Their desperate effort illustrates the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation and the growing humanitarian crisis currently facing Hong Kong,” Chu said, adding that options for a safe passage are limited.

At least 50 former Hong Kong protesters sought asylum in various jurisdictions before the coronavirus pandemic put an end to most international travel last year. Hundreds more have moved to democratic Taiwan.

No more Chinese officials sanctioned

The latest development comes as the United States announced sanctions against six Hong Kong or Chinese officials they accused of implementing a new security law in Hong Kong, following mass arrests of pro-democracy activists this month.

Pro-democracy activist Lester Shum was among those arrested by Hong Kong authorities under new national security law [File: Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

Hong Kong police arrested 53 people on Jan.5 in the biggest crackdown on the democratic movement since China last year imposed a security law that opponents say is aimed at quelling dissent in the former British colony.

“This action by the Hong Kong authorities is another striking example of the fundamental violation of Hong Kong’s freedoms and democratic processes,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo said 13 former members of the Legislative Council, an American lawyer and a former law professor were among those allegedly detained before being released on bail. He called for the release of all those held under the Security Act.

Pompeo said those targeted by the sanctions included You Quan, vice chairman of the Beijing Central Group on Hong Kong and Macau Affairs, and Sun Qingye, deputy director of the Hong Kong National Security Bureau.

Three officers from the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police were appointed – Frederic Choi Chin-Pang, Kelvin Kong Hok Lai and Andrew Kan Kai Yan.

Tam Yiu-Chung, a Hong Kong delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, was also appointed. Pompeo said all were involved in “the development, adoption or implementation of the national security law”.

The sanctions require the freezing of assets linked to the United States of those targeted. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pompeo warned last week of further sanctions in response to the arrests. The warning came a day after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed Congress in an attempt to reverse his November electoral defeat, prompting Chinese state media to accuse US politicians of “double weight.”

Pompeo also said last week that Washington would explore restrictions on the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the United States, but Friday’s announcement made no mention of them.


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