US Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has released a hard-hitting statement following Hong Kong’s jailing of three pro-democracy activists – Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. She says the appeal court’s ruling should “shock the conscience of the world” and called on America to “speak out against such injustices.”
The activists were convicted of unlawful assembly offences last year over their involving the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests. Law and Wong were given community service orders and had completed their sentences, while Chow was handed a suspended jail term. The Department of Justice lodged a sentence review calling for harsher punishment, and on Thursday, the appeal court sentenced the trio to six to eight months in prison.
Following the ruling, Pelosi said: “This egregious decision – which disqualifies these champions for universal suffrage from running for elected office for five years – is an unjust, underhanded attempt to shut down the legitimate democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong. This injustice offends the basic notions of freedom and democracy, and deserves the swift and unified condemnation of the international community.”
Pelosi also said that the re-sentencing, that came after the activists had already served their previous sentences, was “latest evidence that China has failed to live up to the promise of ‘one country, two systems.”
“Since the Umbrella Movement so bravely led by Joshua and his fellow activists, China has accelerated its human rights crackdown and abandoned any pretense of honoring its pledge of sovereignty.”
“Yet, despite China’s barrage of attacks on the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong, it is clear that the democracy movement will continue stronger than ever. Acts of cruelty and intimidation can never defeat the dreams of universal suffrage, liberty and justice.”
Pelosi added that America has a moral duty to speak out. “[I]f we do not stand up for human rights in China because of economic concerns, then we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in any other place in the world.”
Calling it a “dark day for democracy,” Pelosi expressed support and solidarity for the trio, as well as “all those who aspire for a more hopeful, free future for Hong Kong.”
Earlier this year, Wong and Chow met with Pelosi to discuss the situation in Hong Kong. Wong and Pelosi had also met previously on various occasions.
Honored to have met Joshua Wong, a student leader who led a big protest demanding universal suffrage in Hong Kong. pic.twitter.com/sSb46j7zIX
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 18, 2015
Kristin Haworth, spokesperson of US Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau, also expressed concern over the decision.
“Hong Kong has long had an independent judiciary and well-established system that respects the rule of law. We hope Hong Kong’s law enforcement continues to reflect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and remains apolitical. We reiterate the importance of respect for the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she told HKFP on Friday.
Meanwhile, House Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio, both of whom are on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, issued a strong statement following the ruling, warning Hong Kong may lose their special status under US law.
“The Hong Kong government may say these are ‘deterrent sentences,’ but to the rest of the world it looks like political prosecutions intended to curtail freedom of expression, the statement said. “The United States must show unwavering support for freedom and the rule of law, but if the Chinese government will no longer abide by the promises made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, U.S. policy must adapt and reassess whether Hong Kong warrants special status under U.S. law.”