NI: First and deputy first minister urged to intervene over Hong Kong arrests

NI: First and deputy first minister urged to intervene over Hong Kong arrests

Patrick Corrigan

Human rights campaigners have called on Northern Ireland’s first and deputy first minister to condemn the arrest of around 50 democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Activist Gwyneth Ho, who delivered the Amnesty International Northern Ireland annual lecture four weeks ago, is among those arrested for alleged violations of Hong Kong’s controversial national security law.

According to reports, they were charged with “subversion” over their organisation and participation in a self-proclaimed primary for last year’s Legislative Council election, which was later postponed.

Amnesty International is now calling on Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to raise their concerns with the Chinese consul general Madame Zhang Meifang, who previously met with the pair in July.

The July meeting led to a storm of controversy after a Chinese government website indicated that Mrs Foster and Mrs O’Neill had told Madame Zhang that they “understand and respect” the national security law.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland director, said: “Just four weeks ago, Gwyneth Ho was a guest of Amnesty International members in Northern Ireland as she delivered our annual lecture. She told us then that she ‘lived under a constant threat of being arrested’.

“Now those fears have been realised, with the arrest of Ms Ho and 52 others in a ruthless crackdown on democracy and human rights by the Hong Kong authorities.

“We are asking the first and deputy first minister to use their offices to contact the Chinese consul general in Belfast to voice their concerns at these arrests.

“We know that the Chinese consul general has previously discussed Hong Kong’s national security law with Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill. Now is the time for them to make clear their opposition to how this law has been weaponised to punish anyone who dares to exercise their right to freedom of expression.”

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