Press release

Hong Kong: Authorities Arrest Pro-Democracy Activists, Roll Back Rights

A committee of 1,194 largely pro-Beijing members selected Carrie Lam to be the next chief executive of Hong Kong, subsequently leading to the arrests of nine organizers of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.


In response to an unrepresentative committee choosing the next chief executive of Hong Kong, and the sudden arrest orders for nine Umbrella Movement organizers, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“An unelected committee’s selection of Carrie Lam to be the next chief executive of Hong Kong shows that Hong Kong and Beijing authorities continue to deny the people of Hong Kong the right to democratically elect a leader,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president of Freedom House. “Authorities are arresting the leaders of a peaceful pro-democracy movement that occurred in 2014, and suppressing fundamental democratic rights. Authorities should drop all charges against these activists and formulate a timeline to allow real democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong.”


On March 26, Carrie Lam, until recently the second-highest civil servant in Hong Kong, was selected by a committee of 1,194 largely pro-Beijing members to be the next chief executive of Hong Kong, the highest political office in the city. In her victory speech, Lam said she would “heal the divide” in Hong Kong. But within 24 hours, nine organizers of the historic 2014 Umbrella Movement were ordered to report to police for arrest under public nuisance charges linked to the 2014 events. The individuals are: Occupy Central founders Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, and Dr. Chan Kin-man, League of Social Democrats activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming, former Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat, founding member of the Civic Party and current legislator Tanya Chan, activists and legislator Shiu Ka-chun, and student activists Eason Chung and Tommy Cheung. In July 2016, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow, three other student leaders of the Umbrella Movement, were convicted on charges of inciting or partaking in an unlawful assembly.

The Umbrella Movement was a two-month demonstration which involved tens of thousands of people shutting down the city’s financial district in response to the announcement of electoral reforms in which Beijing would select the candidates for whom Hong Kong people could vote. Then serving as the Chief Secretary for Administration, Carrie Lam helped unveil this electoral plan. Near the end of the Umbrella Movement, Lam publicly debated protest leaders on live television. Lam will officially take office as chief executive in July 2017.

Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2017, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2016.