(*Update: BWI affiliates reported that the pro-democracy leaders have been released after posting bail. BWI, however, continues to add its voice in calling for the immediate dismissal of the charges filed against the democracy leaders.)
BWI demands the immediate release of 15 pro-democracy leaders, including Lee Cheuk-yan, General Secretary of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), who were arrested on 18 April 2020 for allegedly “organising and participating in unlawful assemblies" related to protests in Hong Kong on amendments to the extradition bill in 2019.
Prominent leaders were arrested in this new round of arrests related to demonstrations between August and October 2019 and is said to be the biggest roundup of key opposition figures since the start of the protests. Among those apprehended are veteran lawyers Martin Lee and Margaret Ng, media tycoon Jimmy Lai and former opposition legislators Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung.
Earlier, union leader Lee had been arrested on 28 February 2020 for leading a march in protest of amendments to the extradition bill on 31 August 2019, and while he was able to post bail, he will be prosecuted for these initial charges in May 2020.
Ambet Yuson, BWI General Secretary, condemned the Hong Kong government for this latest violation of the right to assembly, saying the government should focus its time and energy on protecting its citizens from COVID-19. He said that the arrests were deplorable, divisive and counter-productive and feared that such provocation could rekindle mass demonstrations at a time when the public should be observing quarantine and physical distancing protocols.
“In the midst of a pandemic, what the people need from their governments is health and economic protection, not intimidation and repression. We urge the Hong Kong government to uphold the right to assembly, immediately release of those arrested for their role in the protests and for the state to cease with arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of protestors," Yuson said.
The BWI understand that the HKCTU plays an important role in the democracy movement which has been successful to some extent with the complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill by government on 23 October 2020. The BWI supports the movement’s ongoing demands for retracting the classification of protesters as rioters, amnesty for all arrested protesters, independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, and genuine universal suffrage.