US condemns arrests of anti-government protest organizers in Hong Kong

US condemns arrests of anti-government protest organizers in Hong Kong
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Top US officials are condemning the arrests of more than a dozen leading organizers of the anti-governments protests that swept Hong Kong last year.

Police made at least 14 arrests Saturday, including activist and ex-lawmaker Martin Lee, media owner Jimmy Lai and protest organizers Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan and Au Nok-hin, The Associated Press reported.

“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,’” Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPresidents and 'presidents' The Hill's Morning Report - Trump mobilizes military against 'angry mob,' holds controversial photo op The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden addresses protests over George Floyd's death MORE said in a statement, referencing the 1997 agreement under which the British handed over the city to China, with the Chinese government agreeing to grant it more autonomy than mainland China.

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“These events show 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 — demonstrate once again that the Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted,” Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump praises 'domination' of DC protesters Antifa and anarchists have hijacked Floyd protests, but the left won't admit it The Hill's Morning Report - Trump mobilizes military against 'angry mob,' holds controversial photo op MORE added in a separate statement.

The U.K.’s Foreign Office said in its own statement that the "right to peaceful protest is fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life and as such is protected in both the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”

“It is completely wrong that the U.K. Foreign Office spokesperson has distorted the truth by painting unauthorized assemblies as ‘peaceful protests,’ in a bid to whitewash, condone and exonerate the anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong,” the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong said in a statement in response, according to the AP.

The protests began last summer over a bill introduced by Hong Kong's chief executive, Carrie Lam, that would have allowed some criminal suspects to be extradited to China. Amid the demonstrations, Lam pulled the bill, but protests continued, with participants demanding her resignation and an independent review of police brutality against protesters, while also expressing dismay at what they perceived as an erosion of the city’s autonomy from Beijing.