Huizhou, Guangdong — NGO worker Xiao Yuhui was taken away by Guangdong police after forwarding a petition addressed to President Trump.
On May 27, police in China took Xiao into custody shortly after he had passed the petition on to his friends. At least one other person was arrested after spreading the petition, but she was released on bail on May 30.
Xiao was released on May 31.
This is not the first time Xiao has been in custody. In October 2016, police detained him for owing more than 18,000 yuan in credit card fees. In June 2017, he received a nine-month sentence for suspected credit card fraud.
He also has taken part in a variety of activist activities. He attended an anti-national education rally in Hong Kong in 2012. On March 8, he planned to distribute voting cards at a subway station and was interviewed by state security. He has followed China’s family planning policy for a long time and has been forbidden from leaving the country.
The petition, titled, “One Person, One Letter to Save Hong Kong,” was first started by Hong Kong’s Apple Daily. It urged Trump to intervene on behalf of Hong Kong after Beijing pushed forward a national security law for the region.
Agreements reached between China and Britain as Hong Kong transitioned into Chinese control in 1997 required Hong Kong maintain its own judicial, legislative, and economic systems. Hong Kong also follows a partially-democratic model, in which residents are allowed to elect some of their officials. These elements permitted Hong Kong residents more freedom than people in mainland China, making it relatively safe for activists and religious people.
However, the new national security law has furthered concerns that those freedoms are being eroded. A version of the law implemented in mainland China is often used to target religious people and dissidents.
As of May 30, the , “One Person, One Letter to Save Hong Kong” petition had more than 110,000 signatures.
American policymakers have taken action on behalf of Hong Kong’s rights in the past few weeks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Hong Kong no longer autonomous from China, a significant move that could have trade ramifications. On May 29, Trump gave a speech, saying:
“Several of the most significant actions we are taking pertained to deeply troubling situations unfolding in Hong Kong. This week China unilaterally imposed control over Hong Kong’s security. This was a plain violation of Beijing’s treaty obligations, with the United Kingdom, in the declaration of 1984 and explicit provisions of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. It has 27 years to go.
The Chinese government’s move against Hong Kong is the latest in a series of measures that are diminishing the city’s long-standing and very proud status.
This is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, the people of China, and indeed the people of the world.
China claims it is protecting national security. But the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s evasive state security apparatus into what was formerly a bastion of liberty.
China’s latest incursion, along with other recent developments that degraded the territory’s freedoms, makes clear that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant the special treatment that we have afforded the territory since the hand of it.
China has replaced its promise formula of “one country, two systems” with “one country, one system.” Therefore, I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment.
My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong, from our extradition treaty to our export controls on dual-use technologies and more with few exceptions.
We will be revising the State Department’s travel advisory for Hong Kong to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus.
We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.
The United States will also take necessary steps to sanction PRC and Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy and so just if you take a look, smothering absolutely smothering Hong Kong’s freedom.
Our actions will be strong. Our actions will be meaningful.
More than two decades ago, on a rainy night in 1997, British soldiers lowered the Union Flag and Chinese soldiers raised the Chinese flag in Hong Kong. The people of Hong Kong felt simultaneously proud of their Chinese heritage and their unique Hong Kong identity.
The people of Hong Kong hoped that in the years and decades to come, China would increasingly come to resemble its most radiant and dynamic city. The rest of the world was electrified by a sense of optimism that Hong Kong was a glimpse into China’s future. Not that, Hong Kong would grow into a reflection of China’s past.”
To read Trump’s full statement, please click here.