The Hong Kong government, allied with China, took advantage of coronavirus-related lockdown measures this week, arresting members of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement as they are forced to shelter in place in their homes.
On Saturday, several of the leaders and frontmen of last summer’s pro-democracy movement were hauled from their homes and charged with “joining the masses” of anti-government protests that went on for months until Hong Kong was forced to take shelter to prevent the spread of coronavirus, per The Associated Press.
“Hong Kong police arrested at least 14 veteran pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and a media tycoon on Saturday on charges of joining unlawful protests last year calling for reforms,” the outlet reported Sunday. “Among those arrested were 81-year-old activist and former lawmaker Martin Lee and democracy advocates Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Au Nok-hin.”
“Police also arrested media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who founded the local newspaper Apple Daily,” AP continues, noting that Apple Daily has an anti-Chinese editorial bent.
China has been waiting for some time to arrest pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong but feared cracking down on demonstrations happening in what is supposed to be a free city-state while the eyes of the world were up on them last year.
Hong King residents — in some cases, half the total population of the island — turned out en masse to protest a bill that would have allowed China to track dissidents, escaped from the Chinese mainland, through Hong Kong and force their extradition. Hong Kong is supposed to be a safe haven — a refuge for democracy just off the coast of the last remaining major Communist nation — and Hong Kong residents pressured their own government and chief executive, China-backed Carrie Lam, to withdraw the bill and remove it from consideration.
Even though Lam eventually gave in, the protests continued, becoming increasingly violent as Hong Kong police cracked down and demonstrators took greater risks, looking to attract the attention and support of major democratic nations, like the United States.
When Hong Kong registered its first cases of coronavirus, the island moved quickly to lock down its population and lockdown orders remain in place, leaving the organizers of anti-China protests sitting ducks for Hong Kong law enforcement.
Secetary of State Mike Pompeo had harsh words for Lam and Hong Kong police.
“Beijing and its representatives in Hong Kong continue to take actions inconsistent with commitments made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration that include transparency, the rule of law, and guarantees that Hong Kong will continue to ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy,” Pompeo said in a statement Sundy.
Attorney General William Barr connected the actions directly to China, warning the Asian powerhouse to abide by the demands of human rights. The actions, Barr said, demonstrate how “antithetical the values of the Chinese Communist Party are to those we share in Western liberal democracies. These actions — along with its malign influence activity and industrial espionage here in the United States — demostrate once again that the Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted.”
The Trump administration has taken an increasingly harsh tone towards China in recent weeks, blaming the nation and its government for, in President Donald Trump’s own words Sunday, “knowingly,” inflicting a pandemic upon the world. The administration announced last week that they are considering blocking funding to the World Health Organization for its complicity in downplaying — and even hiding — the extent of the coronavirus pandemic in China.