The US is speaking out against China after 15 pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers in Hong Kong were arrested for their involvement in protests last year that left the city in a tense power struggle with the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

The arrests — which included two prominent politicians and a millionaire media mogul — marked the biggest crackdown from the Communist government since the mass protests began.

Among those detained were Martin Lee, 81, founder of the Democratic Party and a senior barrister; publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai, 71; and former legislator and barrister Margaret Ng, 72.

Hong Kong Police Superintendent Lam Wing-ho told reporters that those arrested were charged with organizing and participating in “unlawful assemblies” last summer and fall. They are due in court on May 18.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the arrests in a statement Sunday, saying “Beijing and its representatives in Hong Kong continue to take actions inconsistent with commitments made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

That declaration, Pompeo said, included a requirement for Beijing to maintain “transparency, the rule of law, and guarantees that Hong Kong will continue to “enjoy a high degree of autonomy.”

Hong Kong Police Arrest Jimmy Lai
Police officers escort Jimmy Lai out of his house

Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hong Kong Police Arrest Jimmy Lai

Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Hong Kong Arrest Pro-Democracy Activists Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic
Former lawmaker and pro-democracy activist Martin Lee leaves the Central District police station in Hong Kong

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Hong Kong Arrest Pro-Democracy Activists Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic
Pro-democracy supporters hold banners and shout slogans outside of the Western District police station in Hong Kong

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

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Attorney General William Barr echoed Pompeo’s remarks in a similar statement Sunday, condemning “the latest assault on the rule of law and the liberty of the people of Hong Kong.”

“These events show how antithetical the values of the Chinese Communist Party are to those we share in Western liberal democracies. These actions — along with its malign influence activity and industrial espionage here in the United States — demonstrate once again that the Chinese Communist Party cannot be trusted,” he continued.

China’s foreign ministry rejected the criticism, saying that the matter was an internal one and that “foreign countries have no right to intervene.”

“U.S. politicians ignore facts, distort the Sino-British joint declaration, use ‘transparency, rule of law and a high degree of autonomy’ as excuses to exonerate the anti-China activists,” a Chinese statement obtained by Bloomberg read, “The immoral behavior of colluding with the anti-China activists in Hong Kong will be condemned by the international community.”

With Post Wires