The United States could sanction those involved in the arrest of more than 50 people in Hong Kong and send the American ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, sparking anger and the threat of retaliation from Beijing. .
Pompeo also said he was “appalled” by the arrest of an American citizen in Wednesday’s crackdown and added, “The United States will not tolerate the arbitrary detention or harassment of American citizens.”
Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested 53 people in dawn raids on democracy activists in the biggest crackdown since China last year imposed a security law, which it said opponents, aims to stifle dissent in the former British colony.
About 1,000 police officers were involved in the operation, and among the detainees were former lawmakers, prominent activists, academics, and US lawyer John Clancey.
Joshua Wong, a 24-year-old Hong Kong activist, who is already serving a 13-month prison sentence for unlawful assembly, was also questioned for violating the National Security Act, a Facebook post said Thursday.
A senior police source told the AFP news agency that Wong was arrested on a new charge of subversion, the first time he had been arrested under the National Security Act.
Pompeo called the crackdown “outrageous and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for its own people and the rule of law.”
“The United States will consider sanctions and other restrictions against all persons and entities involved in carrying out this assault on the people of Hong Kong,” Pompeo said.
He said he would “also explore restrictions on the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Bureau in the United States and take immediate further action against officials who have undermined democratic processes in Hong Kong.”
The mass arrests have been condemned in Hong Kong and beyond, with the UN also expressing concern on Thursday and calling for the release of the 53 people arrested.
“Yesterday’s arrests were the latest in a series of detentions related to the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly, in Hong Kong,” said the spokesperson for the human rights office. UN man Liz Throssel in a statement.
“These latest arrests indicate that – as feared – the offense of subversion under the National Security Act is indeed being used to detain individuals for exercising legitimate rights to participate in political and public life,” a- she declared.
Taiwan, an island democratically ruled and claimed by China, also condemned the arrests, calling the coup “shocking.”
In his statement, Pompeo also announced that Kelly Craft, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, would be visiting Taiwan, a highly symbolic trip as the island is not a member of the UN due to Beijing’s objections. , which regards Taiwan as a rebellious province.
“Taiwan shows what a free China could accomplish,” he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Pompeo’s comments represented serious interference in the country’s internal affairs, which China strongly condemned.
“For a while, we have seen a minority of anti-Chinese politicians within the Trump administration continue to stage their latest madness, unscrupulously using their remaining tenure to deliberately undermine China-U.S. Relations and serve their interests personal policies, ”Hua said. journalists.
“This type of decision goes against the trend of history and will surely be punished by history,” she said, adding, “China will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and its security interests. “
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry praised Craft’s visit, which will be the first by a U.S. ambassador to the UN on the island, saying it demonstrates strong U.S. support for Taiwan’s international participation.
Pompeo’s statement came after a day of turmoil in Washington, DC, which saw supporters of President Donald Trump storm the Capitol in a bid to reverse his November election defeat.
Lawmakers on both sides denounced the most serious assault on both houses of Congress in more than 200 years, calling it an embarrassment for American democracy to play into the hands of rivals like China.
“I think they’re high fiving in Beijing, and the Chinese are watching that and are very happy about it,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Chinese hawk, told Tucker Carlson on Fox News. “It kind of reinforces their claim that we are falling apart and that they are the country of the future.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington posted a notice on its website on Wednesday, warning Chinese citizens to tighten security measures in light of the “large-scale protest” in Washington, DC and the curfew announced by local government.
Trump has pursued sweeping policies towards China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus. His administration has imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for crushing Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and other alleged rights violations.
Tensions intensified in Washington over Chinese policy in the final days of the Trump administration before President-elect Joe Biden took office on January 20.
The New York Stock Exchange announced on Wednesday that it would be removing three Chinese telecommunications companies, while the administration is also considering adding tech giants Alibaba and Tencent to a blacklist of companies allegedly owned or controlled by the Chinese army.