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China detains activists in year-end crackdown

The Japan Times

BEIJING – Over a dozen Chinese lawyers and activists were detained or went missing in the final days of 2019 in a crackdown on participants of a private democracy gathering, rights groups said Thursday. The Chinese government has severely reduced the space for civil liberties since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012, rounding up rights lawyers, labor activists and even Marxist students in various sweeps. The latest crackdown was linked to a December gathering in the east coast city of Xiamen in Fujian province, where participants discussed "democratic transition in China," said Human Rights Watch researcher Wang Yaqiu. The period around Christmas and New Year is traditionally when China chooses to sentence prominent dissidents in an effort to minimize international media attention, "so it is not a surprise that they chose this particular time to launch a manhunt of activists," Wang said. The meeting involved a small group of people "peacefully discussing politics in a private space," she said.

Hong Kong activists secure refugee status in Germany

The Japan Times

HONG KONG - Germany has granted refugee status to two Hong Kong activists facing charges at home, one of them said on Wednesday, in what is apparently the first time Germany has acknowledged such status for democracy campaigners from the Chinese-ruled city. Ray Wong, 25, and Alan Li, 27, were granted refugees status in Germany in May 2018, Wong told Reuters in a telephone interview from Germany. "Now Hong Kong also has political refugees," Wong said. A city government spokesman was not immediately available for comment. The German consulate in Hong Kong said it was aware that the two Hong Kong residents were staying in Germany, although it could not provide details on individual cases, nor confirm whether the pair had been granted refugee protection.

Nancy Pelosi welcomes Hong Kong democracy activists to U.S. Capitol, signals support of Congress to their cause over 'commercial interests'

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday welcomed Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to the U.S. Capitol, sending a message to Beijing that Congress supports the protesters in their months-long campaign for human rights. Pelosi thanked the activists for "challenging the conscience," not only of the Chinese government, but the worldwide community with their mass protests over the territory's autonomous status. She sided with the protesters' demand for universal suffrage and "a political system accountable to the people." And Pelosi warned others in the U.S. government not to allow "commercial interests" to drive foreign policy in the region. "If we do not speak up because of commercial interests in support of human rights in China, we lose all moral authority to speak up for them any other place in the world," Pelosi said.

Hong Kong 'issues arrest warrants' for exiled democracy activists

Al Jazeera

Police in Hong Kong have ordered the arrest of several pro-democracy activists living in exile on suspicion of violating a China-imposed national security law, according to Chinese state media. CCTV said late on Friday that the six are wanted on suspicion of secession or colluding with foreign forces, crimes that the new law punishes with up to life in prison. It named them as Nathan Law, Wayne Chan Ka-kui, Honcques Laus, Simon Cheng and Ray Wong Toi-yeung. Samuel Chu, an American citizen living in the United States, was also on the list. Hong Kong police declined to comment.