- The joint statement came as Chinese lawmakers met to decide next steps after the Hong Kong Legislative Council elections were postponed.
- Four pro-democracy lawmakers were disqualified on allegations of having violated the new National Security Law.
- Jimmy Lai, a prominent pro-democracy activist, has been arrested in Hong Kong.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand on Sunday released a joint statement in which they urged Hong Kong to hold elections “as soon as possible,” and warned the city’s local authorities to stop “undermining the democratic process.” in Hong Kong.
The joint statement came as Chinese lawmakers met to decide next steps after the Hong Kong Legislative Council elections, scheduled for September 6, were postponed. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam cited the coronavirus pandemic as the major reason behind the postponement.
In the statement, the foreign affairs ministers of the five nations categorically stated that they were “gravely concerned by the Hong Kong government’s unjust disqualification of candidates and disproportionate postponement of Legislative Council elections.”
“These moves have undermined the democratic process that has been fundamental to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” the statement added. The group urged Hong Kong government to move with speed and hold the elections as soon as possible.”
Four Pro-Democracy Lawmakers Disqualified
Amongst those who had expressed interest in vying for the now-postponed Hong Kong legislative elections are four pro-democracy lawmakers who were disqualified on allegations of having violated the new National Security Law by calling for international sanctions against Beijing and Hong Kong.
In the statement, the five foreign ministers called for the disqualified candidates to be allowed to contest the elections, as it is their democratic right, after all. Also, the five countries (which share intelligence information in the framework of the “Five Eyes” alliance) indicated that the security law was eroding the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people.
“We support the legitimate expectations of the people of Hong Kong to elect Legislative Council representatives via genuinely free, fair, and credible elections,” the statement added.
On Friday, the alliance slammed a group of Hong Kong and Chinese senior officials, including Carrie Lam, with sanctions for their involvement in enforcing the controversial security law.
Jimmy Lai Arrested
Elsewhere, Jimmy Lai, a prominent pro-democracy activist, has been arrested in Hong Kong. The activist was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with foreign powers in the wake of the controversial national security law introduced by China in Hong Kong in June. He is also accused of allegedly engaging in fraud .
According to Reuters, police in Hong Kong have arrested a total of seven people on suspicion of violating the city government security law. The arrest could potentially have major consequences for the 71-year-old Lai, and the other detainees, as the new security law prohibits riots or attempted secession with sentence of up to life imprisonment.
A Billionaire China Critic
Media mogul and billionaire Jimmy Lai is an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, and he has for long played a key supportive role in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
In late February, the tycoon was arrested and charged with illegally participating in a banned demonstration against the Hong Kong government on August 31 last year.
Back in 2014, Jimmy Lai was also arrested after he refused to leave a pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong.