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US says Beijing has ‘eviscerated’ Hong Kong freedoms

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday he is “deeply troubled” by the Hong Kong arrest of pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, accusing Beijing of an assault on rights and freedoms in the territory.

“I’m deeply troubled by reports of the arrest of @JimmyLaiApple under Hong Kong’s draconian National Security Law,” Pompeo tweeted, calling it “further proof that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has eviscerated Hong Kong’s freedoms and eroded the rights of its people.”

Lai, one of Hong Kong’s most vocal Beijing critics, was arrested early Monday for colluding with foreign forces, one of the offences in the city’s controversial new national security law that critics say is a blatant crackdown on the territory.

Beijing hailed Lai’s arrest, declaring him an “anti-China rabble-rouser” who conspired with foreigners to “stir up chaos.”

The operation marked the latest spike in US-China tensions and comes less than three months before the US presidential election in which incumbent Donald Trump, who trails his rival Joe Biden in polls, is delivering an increasingly strident anti-Beijing message.

The Trump administration accuses Beijing of everything from massive human rights violations to attempting to colonize the South China Sea region, to using technology like popular app TikTok to harvest the personal information of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

US criticism of Beijing was bipartisan Monday.

House Democrat Jim McGovern denounced the arrests of Lai and his sons, along with the police raid of his media offices, as “outrageous assaults on human rights & freedom of the press in #HongKong.”

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