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Sec. Pompeo condemns arrest of three Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, calls for their release

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Thursday morning condemned the arrest of three student pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong by its police force and called for their release in an official press statement.

Over the past few years, mainland China‘s authoritarian regime has substantially furthered its control and influence over the Hong Kong Police Force as well as the city’s government. This has seen millions of Hong Kongers take to the streets to protest what they see as China stripping them of their autonomy, democracy, and basic human rights, and have even battled it out with police units.

“The United States strongly condemns the arrest and detention of three student democracy activists and calls on Hong Kong authorities to release those that remain detained immediately,” Pompeo wrote. “The Beijing-controlled Hong Kong government continues to stifle dissent, repress public opinion, and use law enforcement for political purposes.”

Sec. Pompeo also took to Twitter to express his dismay about the situation, tweeting: “We condemn the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong Police Force’s arrest of three student democracy activists and call for the immediate release of those that remain detained.”

Reporting on the story has seemingly varied between different publications, it should be noted. This is presumably due to the tight-lipped nature of public police reports in Hong Kong and the growing censorship of social media and the press there.

The three pro-democracy activists were arrested Tuesday when they briefly entered the city’s U.S. consulate in an apparent attempt to seek asylum, an unspecified person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.

The New York Times report, on the other hand, made no mention of them entering the consulate prior to arrest.

The Times reported that one of these activists, a 19-year-old named Tony Chung, was arrested at a coffee shop just across the street from the consulate, according to the U.K.-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong. The group also relayed the presumption that Chung’s plan was to enter the consulate and ask for asylum. Additionally, the paper shared in their report a 35-second video published by The South China Morning Post that shows what appears to be plain-clothes police leading Chung away in an area near the consulate.

The two associates of Chung also arrested on Tuesday were Yanni Ho and William Chan, said another group called Studentlocalism, per The Times. Chung, who co-founded the group, had previously been arrested in July over supposedly publishing a pro-independence social media post that violated the city’s national security law enacted in June. He was subsequently released on bail and had his passport confiscated while being investigated.

Lately, as the human rights situation in Hong Kong continues to deteriorate, many pro-democracy and pro-independence activists have been granted asylum in western countries such as the United States, Germany, and Canada. Complicating matters, however, the U.S. as a policy doesn’t grant asylum via its overseas diplomatic outposts.

China’s actions in Hong Kong have drawn international condemnation and has increasingly become a point of contention between the China and the United States. However, none of these condemnations have evidently slowed down China’s authoritarian behavior, as pro-democracy activists continued to be arrested and censored.

Lastly, in closing his statement, Sec. Pompeo accused China of violating its international human rights obligations.

“The People’s Republic of China has violated its international obligations under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, while the Chinese Communist Party and its Hong Kong proxies crush the promised autonomy of Hong Kong, and eviscerate Hong Kong’s respect for human rights, including the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” he wrote.

“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong,” he added.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent

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China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”

The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients.  According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”

Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.

The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.

Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.

The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”

Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.

Conclusion

According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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