Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the recent mass arrest of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and called for their immediate release in a tweet late Sunday.
“We condemn the detention of and charges filed against pan-democratic candidates in Hong Kong’s elections and call for their immediate release,” Blinken said. “Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes. The U.S. stands with the people of Hong Kong.”
We condemn the detention of and charges filed against pan-democratic candidates in Hong Kong’s elections and call for their immediate release. Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes. The U.S. stands with the people of Hong Kong.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 1, 2021
Hong Kong police arrested and charged 47 pro-democracy activists earlier Sunday with conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law Beijing imposed on the semi-autonomous territory last year, CBS News reported. The activists were brought to court Monday and could face life in prison if convicted.
The case represents the largest mass arrest of pro-democracy activists since the national security law came into effect in June 2020. Dozens of activists were arrested earlier this year, including an American lawyer and several pro-democracy lawmakers.
Demonstrations led by pro-democracy activists first took place in 2019 after the Chinese government pushed for a law allowing Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China. Protests over the last two years have drawn out more than 2 million people and led to hundreds of arrests as Beijing pushed for tougher security measures. (RELATED: Prominent Hong Kong Protest Leader Joshua Wong Sentenced For ‘Unlawful’ Anti-Government Rally)
Blinken also indicated the U.S. could further reprimand China for reported human rights violations during an interview Sunday with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
“First of all, it is really important to speak up, to speak out, and to do so with other countries who share our abhorrence at what is — what’s happening to Uyghurs in Xinjiang or, for that matter, what’s happening to democracy in Hong Kong,” he said.
The State Department previously imposed economic sanctions on several pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong after a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in January.