Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten said on Saturday that Beijing and the SAR government have taken "yet another step towards burying One Country, Two Systems" with the arrests of 15 prominent pro-democracy figures.
Media tycoon Jimmy Lai, lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, and several former lawmakers including Martin Lee and Margaret Ng were among those charged on Saturday in relation to anti-government protests last year.
Patten said in a statement that it was extraordinary for these "distinguished Hong Kong citizens" to be singled out for taking part in demonstrations, some of which were attended by more than a million people.
"This is not the rule of law. This is what authoritarian governments do," he said, adding that it is becoming clearer each day that "Beijing is determined to throttle Hong Kong".
Patten also addressed the ongoing row over Beijing officials openly criticising pro-democracy lawmakers and accusing them of misconduct in public office with their filibustering in Legco.
"This assault on Hong Kong's freedoms comes hard on the heels of ludicrous attempts in the last few days by Beijing's officials to argue that the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, and the liaison office in Hong Kong, are not the same as the rest of the Beijing government and can interfere in Hong Kong's affairs without breaching the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law," Patten said.
"This is a reckless argument which shows that Xi Jinping is determined to abandon the policies pursued by his predecessors, even at the cost of destroying Hong Kong's way of life."
Meanwhile, former British foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind described the arrest of the pro-democracy figures as a "truly appalling attack on the very heart of Hong Kong’s freedoms, the rule of law and autonomy guaranteed to the people of Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law".
"The international community must speak out very clearly to show Beijing that these arrests are unacceptable and will be regarded as an assault not only on Hong Kong’s freedoms but on the international rules-based order itself,” Rifkind said in a statement.
Beijing is determined to throttle HK: Chris Patten
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