Members of the European Parliament have written two open letters condemning the arrest of pro-democracy politicians and advocates in Hong Kong on 18th April. The letters were sent to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission (HRVP), Josep Borrell, and to Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam. They were initiated by Miriam Lexmann (EPP/Slovakia), a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) who visited Hong Kong during last year’s District elections.
Those arrested include the “father of the democracy movement” Martin Lee, who founded the Democratic Party of Hong Kong, the founder of the largest pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, Jimmy Lai, former chairman of the Democratic Party Albert Ho, the former chairman of the Labour Party Lee Cheuk-yan, barrister Margaret Ng and other current and former members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
Miriam Lexmann said: “The arrests are a clear example of political prosecution, which follows a growing number of similar cases. It is important that Members of the European Parliament have supported this initiative and, despite the difficulties we’re all facing as a result of the pandemic, stand in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong”, said Miriam Lexmann MEP.
The arrested have been charged with “unlawful assembly” under the Public Order Ordinance, but the provisions under this legislation fail to comply with the international human rights standards to which Hong Kong is a signatory because, as the United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded, they are “applied to restrict unduly enjoyment of the rights guaranteed in Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
According to Miriam Lexmann, “the letters addressed to the HRVP, urged the Council of the European Union to respond in the strongest possible way to this grave assault on Hong Kong’s freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy. The second letter to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong called for an immediate review of the events that led to the arrests on 18 April and ensure that the charges are dropped.”
Among the signatories are high profile MEPs such as the former Prime Ministers Andrius Kubilius and Guy Verhofstadt, former Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Poland Anna Fotyga and Radosław Sikorski, the Secretary-General of the European People’s Party, Antonio López-Istúriz White, and Michael Gahler, the EPP Group Coordinator for Foreign Affairs.
According to the letter to the EU’s HRV, continued disregard by Chinese and Hong Kong authorities for international obligations and the Basic Law and arrests of the peaceful advocates of democracy and the rule of law will impede EU-China relations. “Now when the Coronavirus pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities vis-à-vis China’s extensive foreign interests, we must answer with ever greater adhesion to our values and principles”, added Lexmann.