Press release July 31, 2020
Hong Kong: Freedom House Condemns Dramatic Attacks on Political Rights
Student activists’ arrest, prodemocracy candidates’ disqualification from upcoming elections, and the elections’ postponement reflect dramatic deterioration of the rule of law and political rights in Hong Kong.
In response to the recent arrest of student activists, disqualification of candidates from the 2020 Legislative Council elections, and one-year postponement of those elections, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Recent events in Hong Kong show continued deterioration of the rule of law and confirm fears that the recently imposed National Security Law will be used to violate rights in Hong Kong,” said Annie Boyajian, director of advocacy at Freedom House. “The arrest of student activists and the disqualification of a dozen prodemocracy Legislative Council candidates amount to a cynical attempt by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to silence dissent and strengthen control over Hong Kong. Retaliation against Hong Kongers exercising the rights to which they were supposed to be entitled under the law confirms that the “one country, two systems” model has been abandoned by the CCP and the Hong Kong government. We condemn the authorities’ ongoing suppression of rights in Hong Kong, and urge officials to drop all charges against the students and reinstate the disqualified candidates.”
“We are also troubled by the one-year postponement of the 2020 Legislative Council elections. While public safety is important, postponement should be a last resort, supported by law and a broad consensus among political stakeholders and independent experts. Given the ongoing crackdown on prodemocracy voices and the fact that COVID-19–related deaths in Hong Kong remain comparatively low, the international community is rightly concerned that this postponement is in fact a political maneuver designed to dampen voter enthusiasm, provide additional time to disqualify or prosecute prodemocracy candidates, and quash dissent.”
On July 29, authorities arrested four students between the ages of 16 and 21 under the new National Security Law, and charged them with “inciting secession” in their social media posts. They were former members of the proindependence group Student Localism, which disbanded before the National Security Law took effect. On July 30, Hong Kong’s government banned 12 prodemocracy candidates from participation in the 2020 Legislative Council elections: Alvin Cheng, Tat Cheng, Gwyneth Ho, Kwok Ka-ki, Dennis Kwok, Ventus Lau, Fergus Leung, Kenneth Leung, Lester Shum, Joshua Wong, Alvin Yeung, and Tiffany Yuen. On July 31, Hong Kong officials announced a one-year delay of the September 2020 Legislative Council elections, citing concerns about COVID-19. All of this follows the July 28 decision of Hong Kong University to fire law professor and longtime prodemocracy advocate Benny Tai.
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