Two leaders of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) have called for sanctions on Hong Kong government lawyers involved in the prosecution of 47 democrats in the city’s biggest national security case. A Beijing office in Hong Kong, however, slammed the proposition as a “hypocritic political show.”

Department of Justice
Hong Kong Department of Justice. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

In a statement published on Tuesday, two years after the 47 democrats were taken into police custody and charged over their alleged role in a conspiracy to commit subversion, the CECC chair Republican Christopher Smith and co-chair Democrat Jeff Merkley said they “renew[ed]” their call for US President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on those involved in their arrest and prosecution.

Similar calls were made to US President Joe Biden last July by the bipartisan and bicameral commission.

In Tuesday’s statement, Merkley and Smith called on the Hong Kong government to drop the charges against the 47 defendants, as well as for others prosecuted under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

“That these champions of democracy are on trial at all signals the deep erosion of Hong Kong’s once venerated rule of law and the Chinese Communist Party’s tight grip on the city,” they said.

The CECC suggested the US impose sanctions on prosecutors Anthony Chau, Maggie Yang, Laura Ng, William Siu, Andy Lo and Ivan Cheung “among others.”

legco election 2020 democratic camp primaries
Organisers of the pro-democracy camp primaries in 2020, Andrew Chiu, Au Nok-hin, Benny Tai. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

The two congressmen also called for US authorities to request an urgent discussion at the United Nations Human Rights Council next month about China’s “efforts to dismantle the fundamental freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong’s citizens through the Sino-British Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” 

Sixteen of the 47 pro-democracy activists are currently undergoing trial after they pleaded not guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to commit subversion over an unofficial primary election in July 2020.

‘Interferes with judiciary’

In response to the CECC’s calls, a spokesperson from the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in the city said in a Wednesday statement that the US politicians should “immediately stop the hypocritic political show that interferes with the SAR’s normal judicial proceedings.”

The spokesperson said the “primary election” in question was used by people who opposed China and disrupted Hong Kong to “fabricate false public opinions” in an attempt to coerce the central and Hong Kong authorities by seizing the controlling majority in the legislature.

The Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR
The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The statement added that what the 47 defendants did was “a serious challenge to the constitutional order of HKSAR and severe sabotage of Hong Kong’s electoral system.”

“The US politicians’ intention and behaviour – to openly trample on legal justice, interfere with the SAR’s judiciary, and attempt to intimate SAR prosecutors fairly carrying out their duty with illegal one-sided sanctions – should be condemned and despised,” the spokesperson said.

The Beijing office also called the US the “largest trouble making country” in the world for “blatantly intervening other states’ internal affairs” and said moves by external forces would not “waver China’s determination to safeguard national security.”

Correction 2/3/2023: An earlier version misspelled the surname of Jeff Merkley. We regret the error.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.