Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was saddened by the mass arrests made in Hong Kong Wednesday, following the new national security laws China instated -- severely limiting Hong Kong’s right to freedom of speech and to protest.
“Free Hong Kong was one of the world’s most stable, prosperous, and dynamic cities,” Pompeo said in a press conference Wednesday. “Now it will be just another communist-run city, where its people will be subject to the party elite’s whims. It’s sad.”
Thousands protested the new security laws that went into full effect overnight Tuesday. Over 300 people were arrested Wednesday, with nine demonstrators specifically arrested for reportedly violating the new laws.
The security laws, which have been repeatedly condemned by the United States, Taiwan and several European countries, criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with sentences facing up to life in prison.
The freedom to protest and freedom of speech have been restricted by the new laws, as any anti-Chinese government sentiments are now punishable by law.
Pompeo also warned Americans that Article 38 of the new security law says that “offenses committed outside of Hong Kong by non-residents of Hong Kong,” are also now punishable by the law.
Demonstrators carrying flags that read “Hong Kong Independence” were among those arrested Wednesday, and anyone heard chanting slogans relating to Hong Kong independence could also be arrested, according to the Hong Kong Police Force twitter.
“Today, the United States Department of State, along with Treasury, Commerce, and DHS, are issuing a business advisory to companies with supply chain links to entities complicit in forced labor and other human rights abuses in Xinjiang and throughout China,” Pompeo said.
The U.S. has already issued visa restrictions on any officials believed to be responsible for Hong Kong oppression, and the U.S. has ended all exports of “defense equipment and dual-use technology.”
U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai designated the Chinese telecommunications equipment companies Huawei and ZTE as national security risks.
Pompeo said that the U.S. will continue moving forward to end Hong Kong’s special status – a policy that recognized the separation of Hong Kong from China. Hong Kong enjoyed certain trade deals such as lower tariffs and different customs and immigration processes, which China did not benefit from.
The United States has officially recognized the separation of Hong Kong from mainland China since 1992 when they signed the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act. The act was further amended in 2019 by U.S. lawmakers apprehensive of China’s growing efforts to gain security control in the semi-autonomous territory.
Hong Kong had relative autonomy from China due to the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which granted the city sovereignty after the British released Hong Kong from imperial rule in 1997.
Pompeo also addressed atrocities happening in mainland China and the recent reports of “forced sterilization and abortions on Uyghurs and other minorities in western China.”
“This shocking news is sadly consistent with the CCP’s decades-long callous disregard for the sanctity of human life,” Pompeo said Wednesday, adding that the effects of the Chinese Communist Party are felt all over the world.
He urged nations and human rights groups to take action against these human rights abuses.