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Pompeo says China’s jailing of activists shows it is a ‘fragile dictatorship’

US secretary of state calls for immediate release of 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters arrested while trying to flee to Taiwan, 10 of whom have been jailed

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves the White House in Washington on December 11, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves the White House in Washington on December 11, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday denounced a Chinese court’s jailing of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who tried to flee by boat, saying it showed Beijing’s true face to its citizens and the world.

“A regime that prevents its own people from leaving can lay no claim to greatness or global leadership. It is simply a fragile dictatorship, afraid of its own people,” Pompeo said in a statement.

A court in Shenzhen on Wednesday jailed 10 Hong Kong democracy activists to up to three years in prison after they tried to flee to Taiwan, a self-governing democracy claimed by Beijing, by speedboat.

The conviction for illegal border crossing comes as China clamps down on dissent in Hong Kong, imposing a tough security law despite previous promises to guarantee a separate system in the former British colony and financial hub.

A pro-democracy activist known as “grandma Wong” shows her support for media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong on December 31, 2020, where he faced the prosecution’s appeal against his bail after he was charged under the new national security law. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP)

Pompeo, a vocal critic of Beijing, called for all 12 people arrested in August in their bid to flee to Taiwan to be “immediately and unconditionally released.”

The case “exposes once again Beijing’s brutality, blatant disregard for the international treaties it has signed, and its disdain for the rights of the Hong Kong people,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo, who leaves office on January 20 following US President Donald Trump’s election defeat, has cast Beijing as a global adversary and vowed to end decades of US attempts to engage the communist leadership.

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