Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for the immediate release of dozens of pro-democracy politicians and advocates arrested in Hong Kong, adding that the U.S. was considering sanctions in response to their detention.
Pompeo called the arrests under a new national security law an “outrage.”
“Those arrested are guilty of nothing but exercising the democratic rights promised to them by treaty, and due to them through virtue of their humanity,” the secretary said in a statement. “They should be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Hong Kong police arrested 53 former lawmakers and democracy proponents Wednesday for allegedly violating the new national security law by participating in unofficial election primaries for the territory’s legislature last year.
The mass arrests were the largest move against Hong Kong’s democracy movement since the law was imposed by Beijing last June to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous territory.
Pompeo added the U.S. won’t “stand idly by while the people of Hong Kong suffer under Communist oppression.
“The United States will consider sanctions and other restrictions on any and all individuals and entities involved in executing this assault on the Hong Kong people, explore restrictions against the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the United States, and take additional immediate actions against officials who have undermined Hong Kong’s democratic processes.”
He also decried the reported arrest of an American citizen, human rights lawyer John Clancey.
“Let me be clear: The United States will not tolerate the arbitrary detention or harassment of U.S. citizens,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.