Pompeo threatens US sanctions over Hong Kong mass arrests

Pompeo threatens US sanctions over Hong Kong mass arrests

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a briefing to the media
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing to the media at the State Department in Washington on Nov 10, 2020. (File photo: Reuters/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

WASHINGTON: United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday (Jan 7) threatened US sanctions over Hong Kong authorities' mass arrests of pro-democracy figures and voiced anger that an American was among those rounded up.

Pompeo said that the 53 people arrested a day earlier "should be released immediately and unconditionally".

"The United States will not stand idly by while the people of Hong Kong suffer under Communist oppression," Pompeo said in a late-night statement after a day of political violence in Washington.

"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," he said, calling the arrests a "outrage and a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for its own people and the rule of law".

READ: Condemnation swells over Hong Kong opposition mass arrests

Pompeo, who remains in office for two weeks, said the US would also "explore restrictions" against the financial hub's trade representative office in Washington.

In an operation involving 1,000 officers, Hong Kong police arrested the activists for "subversion" in an escalation of Beijing's imposition of a tough security law in the wake of huge and sometimes violent democracy protests in 2019.

This is the biggest crackdown since the introduction of the law, which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony.

Pompeo, a vehement critic of Beijing, confirmed the arrest of an American and said he was "appalled".

"Let me be clear: The United States will not tolerate the arbitrary detention or harassment of US citizens," he said.

Two sources told AFP that the arrested American was John Clancey, a lawyer working for a firm known to take up human rights cases.

Source: Agencies/kg