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EDITORIAL | Japan Should Call for the Release of Jailed Hong Kong Democracy Activists




~This is a human rights issue, and no amount of ‘expressing concern’ or ‘observing the situation’ will help. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga needs to lead by action~ 


On December 2, pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow, Joshua Wong, and Ivan Lam were sentenced to prison in Hong Kong for inciting an illegal assembly in June 2019.


It was painfully obvious that the trial was another crackdown on Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy. The judgment cannot be justified nor accepted.


Hong Kong officials should release the activists and guarantee their freedom. 


We emphasize that the international community is gravely concerned for the safety of the three activists — and for the citizens of Hong Kong who seek to uphold democracy. Agnes Chow was just recently arrested in August on suspicion of violating the National Security Law.


Xi Jinping at the National People's Congress of China, which began May 22 in Beijing


Xi Jinping is the one pulling the strings of oppression in Hong Kong. The purpose of the National Security Law is to nip any pro-democracy activity in the bud. The Hong Kong Liaison Office and Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, both of which are agencies of Beijing, seek to expand his authoritarian rule. Our greatest concern is that China’s international commitments — “One country, two systems” and “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” — have become all show and no substance. 


The activists were arrested and charged between August and September of 2019 for inciting protests opposing the extradition bill at the police headquarters. They were released on bail, but were later imprisoned after the court revoked their bail on November 23, 2020. Their treatment reflects Beijing’s escalating crackdown in Hong Kong.



The Chinese government has argued that China and Hong Kong are governed by the rule of law and has rejected all criticism directed at them by the international community. Their claims fall on deaf ears as they continue to punish those who seek only what is expected of a democratic state — that is, freedom and democracy. 


The government, which should focus on democratizing Hong Kong and their own country, is instead choosing to rule by tyranny.


The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan advisory body created by the United States Congress, released its annual report on December 1. In regards to China’s imposition of the National Security Law, the report notes at page 16:


Chinese leaders intend to pursue their political objectives without concern for their existing commitments or the reputational costs they might incur by violating them.


The report further calls on the U.S. government to remove barriers on U.S. visa rules for Hong Kong residents who are attempting to flee the city for fear of political persecution. The situation has become desperate.


The Japanese government should express solidarity with the three activists and urge both the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to release them. 


This is a human rights issue, and no amount of “expressing concern” or “observing the situation” will help. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga needs to lead by action. 


(Read the original editorial here, in Japanese.)


Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun