The five eyes countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and the United States have voiced further criticism of Hong Kong’s National Security Law after the arrest of more pro-democracy figures.
Foreign Ministers from the Five Eyes countries have urged the Hong Kong authorities to respect “legally guaranteed rights” after 55 politicians and activists were arrested on charges of “subversion” under the new pro-Beijing bill.
In a joint declaration published on Sunday, four of the foreign ministers called for the postponed Legislative Council elections to proceed and for all political opinions to be heard. Hong Kong’s elections have been delayed since September last year.
The ministers said the National Security Law was being used to “eliminate dissent and opposing political views” and was a “clear breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and undermines the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework.”
“It has curtailed the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” they added, citing the 1991 Bill of Rights which the Chinese Communist Party agreed to honor in the 1997 handover from Britain.
“We call on the Hong Kong and Chinese central authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention,” they said.
New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, who was not included in the joint media release, concurred with the sentiment expressing a need to address the suppressiveness of the bill, which came into force on June 30.
“Aotearoa New Zealand is deeply concerned by the recent arrest of a number of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong,” she wrote on Twitter. “This represents another effort to erode the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and further undermine the one country two systems framework.”
Human Rights Groups Condemn Hong Kong Officials
Over 30 human rights groups have also published a joint open letter to condemn the raids carried out by 1,000 Hong Kong police officers this week.
The open letter signed by 35 international organisations said the recent arrests “symbolize the ongoing weaponization of law” by Hong Kong officials. They called upon the former British colony to drop charges against all those arrested, the total of which rose to 55 people on Sunday from what was 53 on Friday.
“We condemn these arrests in the strongest possible terms,” human rights and literary organization Pen America declared on its website on Jan. 8. “This is a wholesale attack on democracy in Hong Kong, and a criminalization of freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, and freedom of association.”
The cohort of human rights groups included the World Uyghur Congress, Students For a Free Tibet-India, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The 55 activists, former lawmakers, and politicians were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday on suspicion of subversion, a crime under Beijing’s national security law, for their roles in a primary vote held by the pan-democracy camp ahead of the Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in September last year.
Joshua Wong, former secretary-general of local pro-democracy party Demosistō, and Tam Tak-chi, vice-chairman of the pro-democracy party People Power, were the latest pro-democracy politicians detained.
Among the apprehended were former lawmakers of the local Civic Party and Democratic Party, including Wu Chi-wai, James To, Andrew Wan, Lam Cheuk-ting, and Alvin Yeung.
Lily Zhou and Frank Fang contributed to this report.