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Arrests in Hong Kong denounced by the UN

15 January 2021


People wearing face masks walk across a street in Hong Kong on Monday

People wearing face masks walk across a street in Hong Kong on Monday

THE United Nations has called for the immediate release of 53 people detained in Hong Kong under the new national security law.

It said that the new law was being used to detain people who were “exercising legitimate rights to participate in public and political life” (News, 5 June 2020).

Those arrested include academics, lawyers, activists, and district councillors. A barrister, John Clancey, became the first US national to be arrested in the swoop last week. All but one of those arrested have been released on bail, but have been forced to surrender their passports.

The UN has called on the authorities to uphold their human-rights obligations and “to refrain from using the national security law to suppress the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”.

Liz Throssell, from the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “These latest arrests indicate that — as had been feared — the offence of subversion under the national security law is indeed being used to detain individuals for exercising legitimate rights to participate in political and public life.”

Reuters also reported that two Roman Catholic nuns from Hong Kong were arrested during a visit to China and held for three weeks. They have not been charged, but are forbidden to return to the city, according to sources that spoke to the news agency.

Clerics told Reuters that the arrests were an attempt to put pressure on the Vatican to close its unofficial diplomatic mission in China. It reported that Beijing was trying to extend its control of the Roman Catholic Church in Hong Kong by influencing the choice of the city’s next bishop. The see has been vacant for two years.

The acting head of the Church in Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong, has told his priests not to deliver sermons that are political, and to avoid language that contributes to “social disorder”.

“We are at the bottom of the pit: there is no freedom of expression any more,” the former Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, told Reuters in a written reply to questions. “All these things are normal in mainland China. We are becoming like any other city in China.”

The Most Revd Andrew Chan was installed as the Anglican Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong on 3 January (News, 23 October, 18/25 December 2020). In his sermon, he said that the Church in Hong Kong and Macao should embody mutual trust, mutual love, and mutual understanding.

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