The non-governmental organization (NGO) Human Rights Watch (HRW) argued today that Hong Kong officials should stop legal proceedings on political grounds against pro-democracy activists after the arrest of Joshua Wong.
“Hong Kong officials must cease prosecution for political reasons by pro-democracy activists,” HRW said in a statement.
The same authorities “must immediately drop the charges and annul the convictions” under the legislation “which places excessive restrictions on the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly”.
The NGO pointed out that the “Police arrested 23-year-old Joshua Wong, a prominent leader of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement” on Thursday, and accused him of participating in an “unauthorized meeting” at a 2019 demonstration, and for violating an anti-mask law, later considered unconstitutional.
HRW also highlighted the detention of activist Koo Sze Yiu and two other unidentified protesters, recalling that in the case of Wong “the Hong Kong authorities continue to dig up doubtful cases (…) in a violent attempt to silence him”, according to the director from Human Rights Watch to China.
“The authorities in Hong Kong and China must realize that people in Hong Kong responded to the attacks on pro-democracy voices with an increasing determination to defend human rights,” added Sophie Richardson.
On Thursday, the European Union said the arrest of Joshua Wong was “the latest in a worrying series of arrests of pro-democracy activists” in Hong Kong since the summer and reiterated the importance of an independent judicial system.
“These arrests require very careful scrutiny from the judiciary. The EU reiterates that an independent judicial system, which operates free of political considerations and influences, is a cornerstone of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and is protected by the Basic Law ”, reads a statement released by the spokesman for the head of European diplomacy.
The EU also points out that “developments in Hong Kong call into question China’s willingness to maintain its international commitments, undermine confidence and have an impact on EU-China relations”.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, detained on Thursday in Hong Kong and released hours later, called for intervention by the international community in the case of the group arrested in China more than a month ago, which includes a young man with a Portuguese passport.
“I ask the international community to, instead of focusing only on prominent activists like me, (…) pay attention to the 12 detainees in Shenzhen [mainland China], in a ‘secret detention’ that completely violates human rights,” said Joshua Wong to the journalists who were waiting for him outside the police station.
Upon leaving the police station, Wong urged the government to “stop political persecution”, saying that this is the third process it has faced since June, when the national security law imposed by Beijing on the territory came into force.
The 12 pro-democracy activists, including university student Tsz Lun Kok, with dual Chinese and Portuguese nationality, were arrested on August 23 by the Chinese coast guard on suspicion of “illegal crossing” when they were sailing by boat to Taiwan, where it is thought that they sought political asylum.
At the age of 23, Wong is one of the best known faces of the so-called “umbrella revolution” in 2014, and came to be detained and convicted after that year’s protests. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 and was jailed in 2018 and was later released.
On July 30, the activist was removed from parliamentary elections, which were scheduled for September, but were postponed for a year, allegedly for fears linked to the pandemic.
The young man founded the Demosisto party, dissolved by those responsible for it on the day the national security law came into force.
At that time, the activist told Lusa that he feared he was one of the main targets of the law imposed by Beijing on the territory, following the pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019.
Enacted on June 30 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the new law allows to punish four types of crimes against state security: subversive activities, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces that endanger national security in Hong Kong.
The international community, including the United States and the European Union, as well as several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), expressed fears that the law will serve to silence critical voices in Hong Kong, after a year of protests that led to nine thousand arrests in the former British colony.
This article is available in: Português