Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned China’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. In a statement on Sunday, Blinken condemned the arrests and charges against pro-democracy activists made over the weekend, and reaffirmed solidarity between the United States and 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,” he said. “Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes. The U.S. stands with the people of Hong Kong.”
47 pro-democracy advocates and activists were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit subversion in “the largest single crackdown on the opposition under a China-imposed national security law,” according to Reuters.
The Chinese Communist government had previously arrested 55 people in January for their alleged involvement in an unofficial primary in 2020, which had the goal of choosing candidates for a “legislative council election.” Law enforcement officials announced that of those arrested, they were able to come up with charges against 47 of them.
The European Union office in Hong Kong has demanded the release of the activists. “The nature of these charges makes clear that legitimate political pluralism will no longer be tolerated in Hong Kong,” it stated.
China’s national security laws in Hong Kong have enabled the government to arrest protestors to “punish acts of subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism with possible life imprisonment,” per Reuters.
“China justified the laws to restore order following mass protests in 2019 against perceived Chinese suppression of Hong Kong’s basic liberties and autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement. This was put in place in 1997 when the city reverted from British to Chinese rule,” Reuters reports.
In addition to his remarks on social media, Blinken discussed the situation in Hong Kong and weighed in on other human rights offenses in China in an interview with the CBC on Sunday.
“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, in response to a question about what the United States could do to respond to China’s actions.
“But in terms of practical measures, I think there are a number of things that can be done,” added Blinken. “For example, countries should not be supplying any products or technology that can be used for the repression of people in China; for example, the Uyghurs. Similarly, countries should look at making sure they’re not importing products that are made with forced labor. Those are very practical things that countries can do and focus on to make sure that not only is our voice loud but our actions are too.”
Pressed on the topic of genocide of the Uyghurs, Blinken stated that he believes firmly that China’s actions against the ethnic minority is a genocide, stating: “Yes, I have said so, and I’ve made that clear on behalf of the United States. President Biden, more importantly, has said so as well.”
Blinken also commented on China’s detention of “the two Michaels,” Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, saying, “We stand strongly with Canada when it comes to the need to see the two Michaels released immediately and unconditionally.”