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Secretary of State Pompeo Condemns China for Treatment of Hong Kong Activists

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China's leadership a "fragile dictatorship" after 10 Hong Kong activists were sentenced to prison.

The pro-democracy activists attempted to flee Hong Kong via speedboat in August but were intercepted at sea before reaching Taiwan.

Twelve activists were arrested, but two teenagers in the group were allowed to return to Hong Kong. The remaining 10 were sentenced Wednesday on the mainland.

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

Xi Jingpin has been president of the People's Republic of China since 2013.

The activists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven months to three years following a closed-door trial by Chinese officials. Most of the activists previously were facing criminal charges linked to pro-democracy street protests in Hong Kong.

"What unfolded inside the Shenzhen courtroom today confirmed what many Hong Kongers feared most — that they no longer enjoy the same rights and protections under the rule of law and an independent judiciary system once guaranteed to all Hong Kongers," said Hong Kong Democracy Council’s Samuel Chu, who is based in Washington, D.C. 

"Despite China's repeated claim of having a 'sunshine judiciary' system, the 12 Hong Kongers were denied their chosen legal representation. And no family, rights observers, or representatives from foreign embassies were allowed in the 'open' courtroom."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin insisted China simply was enforcing its laws in arresting and sentencing the activists. 

"I'd like to stress that China is a country with rule of law, where laws must be followed and lawbreakers must be held accountable," Wenbin said. "The Chinese judicial organs handle cases strictly according to law."

President Donald Trump revoked Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law in May. He cited Beijing's moves to deprive the former British colony of the freedoms guaranteed by the Sino-British agreement signed in 1984, when the United Kingdom relinquished control of the region.

"Hong Kong was a thriving territory until the Chinese Communist Party and its local lackeys destroyed its rule of law and eviscerated the Hong Kong people’s freedoms," Pompeo said. "The 'Hong Kong 12' who tried to flee this tyranny deserved a hero's welcome abroad, not capture, a secret trial, and prison sentences."