Foreign ministers issued a joint statement condemning the arrest of more than 50 democracy activists in Hong Kong last week.

The Foreign Ministers of Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada expressed “serious concern” over the arrest of 55 democracy activists and supporters in Hong Kong last week.

In a joint statement on Sunday, the four foreign ministers called on China to respect the freedoms of the people in the semi-autonomous area and condemned the use of a draconian national security law to carry out the arrests.

“It is clear that the national security law is being used to eliminate dissenting and conflicting political views,” the foreign ministers said.

The dawn crackdown on Wednesday affected 1,000 police officers and was by far the largest such move since China introduced national security laws last year.

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say the law – prohibiting secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces – is necessary to restore order to a city that was shaken in 2019 by months of often violent protests against the government that demanded greater democracy.

Most of those arrested last week had participated in an unofficial primary election for a general election, which was later postponed. Authorities claim the primary one was part of a conspiracy to take control of the legislature to cripple the government and force the city’s leader to resign.

The 55 have not been charged and all but three have been released on bail pending further investigation. They could exclude convictions from applying for office.

The four foreign ministers said the next general election should include candidates representing a range of political opinions. Only half of the city’s legislature is elected by popular vote.

“We urge the central authorities of Hong Kong and China to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without fear of arrest and detention,” they wrote.

The declaration was signed by Marise Payne from Australia, Francois-Philippe Champagne from Canada, Dominic Raab from Great Britain and Mike Pompeo from the USA.

On Thursday, Pompeo also said Washington could sanction those involved in the arrests and would send the US ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China.

China has sharply criticized the upcoming visit, while the Taiwanese government has welcomed it.

Pompeo also announced on Saturday that the US is lifting long-standing restrictions on its diplomats and others’ contact with their counterparts in Taiwan.

Actions against Taiwan and Hong Kong will undoubtedly anger China, which views such moves as foreign interference in its internal affairs.

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