Hong Kong (China): Advocates for Hong Kong’s underprivileged and ethnic minority communities on Friday slammed authorities over the recent mass arrests of 53 former lawmakers and activists, including two of their colleagues and respected rights figures, with one group accusing authorities of striking at the city’s core values.
Several rights groups lambasted local authorities for what they called a misapplication of the national security law imposed by Beijing while pointing to their colleagues’ years of service to disadvantaged communities and questioning how they could have violated the law, reported South China Morning Post.
“We are concerned about the use of the national security law as a front to target the core values and democratic expressions and aspirations of people based simply on their political orientation… The arrests were an attempt to trample on Hongkongers’ fundamental human rights provided under the Basic Law,” said Phyllis Cheung Fung-mei, executive director of the NGO Hong Kong Unison.
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.
According to South China Morning Post, officials alleged the “35-plus” plan by opposition politicians to win control of the 70-member Legislative Council in now-postponed citywide elections ran afoul of the national security law, as it was purportedly part of a wider strategy to paralyze and overthrow the government.
Among the arrested were two prominent advocates for the underprivileged: Jeffrey Andrews, vice-chair of Hong Kong Unison, which offers help to ethnic minority groups; and Lee Chi-Yung, spokesman for the Association of Parents of the Severely Mentally Handicapped.
Andrews, 34, is of Indian descent and was one of the first registered social workers in the city to come from an ethnic minority background. He has been serving refugees and members of minority groups for a decade.
Cheung, a member of Hong Kong Unison, said that Andrews’ participation in the primaries is reflective of his commitment to Hong Kong and to serving Hong Kong people, and went on to call the mass arrests ‘an attempt to spread white terror’ in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is enshrined in the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, reported South China Morning Post.
“The arrests smacked of the authorities’ intention to retaliate against [the opposition],” she said.
“Andrews has never voiced out any political demand, nor has he been involved in any political parties… Before taking any action, the police should have thought carefully about whether the arrested persons had intended to breach the law or threaten national security,” said Richard Tsoi Yiu-Cheong, a community organizer with the Society for Community Organisation, an NGO advocating for the rights of underprivileged citizens.
Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo slammed Beijing over the arrests of Hong Kong politicians and pro-democracy advocates by calling it an outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) contempt for its own people.
“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,” Pompeo said on Wednesday.
According to the draconian 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 — ANI