Beijing foreign affairs office in HK hits back at governments for criticising arrests of pro-democracy figures

20-Apr-2020 Intellasia | | South China Morning Post | 9:51 AM Print This Post

Beijing’s foreign affairs office in Hong Kong has hit back at governments and politicians who criticised the arrests of 15 pro-democracy figures for their roles in unlawful protests last year, saying their attempts to condone anti-China troublemakers were “completely wrong”.

Issuing two strongly-worded statements over two days, the spokesperson of the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong urged the governments of Britain and United States and other politicians to stop meddling in the city’s affairs, which he said were completely China’s internal matters.

“It is completely wrong that the UK Foreign Office spokesperson has distorted the truth by painting unauthorised assemblies as ‘peaceful protests’, in a bid to whitewash, condone and exonerate the anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong,” the statement on Saturday read.

The spokesperson added Hong Kong was governed by the rule of law and nobody was above the law.

Pro-democracy figures were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of organising, publicising or taking part in the unauthorised assemblies between August and October last year. (SCMP)

Pro-democracy figures were arrested on Saturday on suspicion of organising, publicising or taking part in the unauthorised assemblies between August and October last year. (SCMP)

“The UK has fully exposed its double standards in that it frequently pays lip service to the rule of law, but drops mention of the principle once anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong are involved,” the spokesperson said.

The second statement issued on Sunday refuted the claims of US politicians. It said their remarks served as another evidence of their collusion with the local troublemakers, who deserved condemnation by the entire international community.

The spokesperson said the US politicians were “condoning evil acts and making a travesty of the rule of law by ignoring facts, distorting the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and trying to exonerate anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong on the pretext of ‘transparency’, ‘the rule of law’ and ‘a high degree of autonomy’”.

Apart from Britain and the US, the arrests on Saturday also aroused criticisms from the Australian government, an international bar association, other overseas politicians and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Those arrested include media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, and barristers Martin Lee Chu-ming and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee. They were arrested on suspicion of organising, publicising or taking part in the unauthorised assemblies between August and October last year, as part of the anti-government movement sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

The British Foreign Office said the right to peaceful protest was fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life and it was essential that protests were conducted peacefully. It also said that authorities should avoid actions that inflamed tensions.

Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last British governor, described the arrests as “another step towards burying the governing principle of one country, two systems”, even as the European Union said the arrests “demanded close scrutiny”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the arrests were “deeply concerning” and were “inconsistent with commitments made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration that include transparency, the rule of law, and guarantees that Hong Kong will continue to enjoy a high degree of autonomy”.

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden called on the US to stand up for Hong Kong’s freedom on Twitter on Sunday: “Trump has said he’s ‘standing with Xi Jinping’. That’s weak. We need to be strong on values when it comes to China. That’s what I’ll do as president.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted to urge US President Donald Trump to “swiftly begin implementing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” that could pave the way for economic sanctions against the city government.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said accountability of law enforcement agencies and the unbiased application of justice were vital to restore confidence and stability in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Bar Association chair Philip Dykes told the Post that the arrests affected the city’s reputation, especially as two of the arrestees, Lee and Ng, were given awards last year by the International Bar Association for their outstanding contributions in the protection of human rights and the pursuit of justice.

Meanwhile, Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of several anti-government rallies last year, said on Facebook on Sunday they had already applied for police’s approval for an annual march on July 1 this year to mark the handover of the city to Beijing.

“Hong Kong people will not back down in the face of mass arrests, and will persist on the irreversible revolution of our times,” it said.

A government spokesman on Sunday night refuted the criticisms on the arrests and warned public discussion on cases with ongoing legal proceedings might amount to a trial by the public.

“These types of accusations may be perceived as purporting to influence the proper discharge of public duties.

“The rule of law is a core value in Hong Kong. Any unfair and unfounded allegation made with a view to undermining and discrediting our independent criminal justice system is vehemently refuted,” he said.

He reiterated that investigations by law enforcement agencies and prosecutions by the Department of Justice were carried out in strict accordance with the law.

“Cases will not be handled any differently owing to the political beliefs or background of the persons involved,” the spokesman said.



Category: Hong Kong

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