Hong Kong: Opposition Legislators and Activists Arrested for Protests
In response to Hong Kong authorities’ arrests of two pro-independence legislators and nine pro-democracy activists for “illegal assembly” and “public disorder,” Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The Hong Kong government’s arrest of 11 opposition leaders on trumped up charges marks a dangerous escalation of repression against dissenting voices,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Opposition legislators and activists should not face arrest and possible criminal conviction for their political views. Authorities arrested them for organizing a peaceful demonstration and, in the case of two legislators, for trying to enter the legislature, to which they had been duly elected – charges that reflect the pro-Beijing government’s growing intolerance of dissent.”
The nine people arrested on April 27 are being charged with public disorder and unlawful assembly for organizing a peaceful demonstration of thousands in November 2016 against a ruling by a committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing to disqualify two pro-independent legislators. Those disqualified legislators, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus Leung, were charged on April 26 with unlawful assembly and attempted forcible entry linked to their efforts to enter the legislature’s chamber in November 2016.
Since July 2016, at least 23 opposition activists and lawmakers have been tried for or convicted of unlawful assembly, public nuisance, or public disorder due to their organizing and political activism. 12 of these people were organizers of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, 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.
In March 2017, Carrie Lam 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. Joshua Wong, Umbrella Movement leader and secretary general of the opposition party Demosisto, has predicted significant protests for Lam’s swearing in ceremony on July 1, a ceremony Xi Jinping is expected to attend.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.