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Why Did China Arrest Four Activists in Hong Kong?

(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested at least four individuals for their involvement as trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a non-profit that has provided legal aid for those who took part in the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Among those arrested were a prominent attorney, a singer, and a 90-year-old retired cardinal.

Chinese authorities suppressed the protests in 2019, and now they’re looking to put an end to support for the protesters, even though the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund ceased operations last year after facing pressure from the government.

Authorities detained scholar Hui Po-keung at Hong Kong International Airport on Tuesday and arrested barrister Margaret Ng, singer Denise Ho, and Cardinal Joseph Zen on Wednesday.

“Scores of pro-democracy activists have been arrested under a sweeping National Security Law imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020 following the demonstrations,” reports NewsNation. “The city’s independent media have been gutted and its legislature reorganized to pack it with Beijing loyalists.”

Zen has been one of the most prominent critics of China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong. He condemned the Vatican’s 2018 decision to involve the Chinese Communist Party in nominating bishops, a move that has alienated the underground church movement throughout the country because underground Christians refuse to kowtow to the CCP.

The Hong Kong Free Press reports that police released Zen on bail at 11:00 local time Wednesday night. Zen had five people with him as he got in a car outside the police station and didn’t give a statement to reporters.

The Vatican is “following the development of the situation with extreme attention,” according to the Catholic News Agency.

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Ho’s manager confirmed the singer’s arrest but had no other details. Hui was arrested at the airport as he tried to leave the city. All four activists face charges of “conspiracy to collude with foreign powers.”

Human-rights advocates have condemned the arrests, particularly of the nonagenarian Cardinal Zen.

“Arresting a 90-year-old cardinal for his peaceful activities has to be a shocking new low for Hong Kong, illustrating the city’s free fall in human rights in the past two years,” Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “Human Rights Watch calls on the Hong Kong government to immediately release the five and drop all charges against them.”

“The arrests, which comes [sic] days after the Chinese government’s anointment of former security chief John Lee as the city’s chief executive, is an ominous sign that its crackdown on Hong Kong is only going to escalate,” she continued.

Wang also said she had heard that former Legislative Council member Cyd Ho Sau-lan had also been arrested.

“Today’s arrests signal beyond a doubt that Beijing intends to intensify its crackdown on basic rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” Benedict Rogers of Hong Kong Watch told the Associated Press. “We urge the international community to shine a light on this brutal crackdown and call for the immediate release of these activists.”

The AP also reports that “The White House also called on China and Hong Kong authorities to cease targeting Hong Kong advocates and immediately release Zen and others who were ‘unjustly detained and charged,’ deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.”

Lee’s election was another one of the sham elections that communists are famous for. He ran unopposed, so there was no other choice for Hong Kong’s residents. The European Union and G7 nations of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the U.S. have all condemned the election.

Many pro-democracy activists have fled to Taiwan, and thousands of others have left Hong Kong because of China’s growing crackdowns there. China’s influence has flown in the face of the “one country, two systems” notion in which Hong Kong was to retain certain measures of independence after British rule ended in 1997.

But as we’ve all seen before, China doesn’t care.