National Security

Pro-Democracy Hong Konger Arrested By China While Seeking Asylum at U.S. Consulate

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Tony Chung / Getty Images

Chinese authorities arrested a pro-democracy activist on Tuesday while he attempted to seek asylum at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong.

Tony Chung, 19, went to the consulate in Hong Kong on Tuesday morning in an attempt to gain political asylum. According to British activist group Friends of Hong Kong, when Chung arrived, the consulate was not yet open, and he realized an individual he believed to be a national security agent had followed him there. After stopping to wait in a coffee shop for the consulate to open, Chung was arrested by men in plain clothes.

Current U.S. diplomatic policy does not allow foreigners to receive asylum at consulates or embassies, as asylum seekers must first arrive in U.S. territory. Political dissidents, however, can apply for refugee status at American consulates.

Friends of Hong Kong said it had lobbied the State Department for Chung’s protection, but Chung felt he could not wait for the extended process.

Two associates of Chung were later arrested Tuesday night under the new national security law, a sweeping legislative act that restricts political freedom within Hong Kong and of dissident Hong Kongers abroad. At least 27 have been arrested under the law, according to the Guardian.

A swift takeover of Hong Kong by the Chinese Communist Party occurred this summer, sparking international outrage and a new suite of sanctions. Not all reacted with the same opposition, however. A New York Times op-ed earlier in October defended the actions of the Chinese government during the summer of unrest, in which the CCP suppressed and imprisoned hundreds of pro-democracy activists.

Hong Kong’s capture under Chinese influence has led many national security analysts to be concerned about the security of Taiwan, a country that China has made claim to. 

"Taiwan is the new Hong Kong, it’s the new canary in the mineshaft," Heritage Foundation national security expert James Carafano told the Washington Free Beacon earlier this month. "For the West not to stand up for Taiwan is a really strong signal that you’re not really going to push back on the Chinese anywhere."

Carafano and others also warned that a Biden administration may be ill-equipped to defend Taiwan from the same fate as Hong Kong.

"I don't have very high expectations [for Biden]," said Carafano. "China will have a lot of cards to play."