BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday criticized U.S. Congress members who nominated Hong Kong's 2014 pro-democracy protest movement and three of its most prominent student leaders for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The 12 lawmakers, in a letter this week to the nominating committee in Oslo, said they were naming Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow and the "Umbrella Movement" for the prize in recognition of their "peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self-determination to Hong Kong."
In a statement Friday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing urged the U.S. lawmakers to "stop meddling" in Hong Kong and China's internal affairs, saying the 2014 protests were "downright illegal."
The letter was signed by four Democrats and eight Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Christopher Smith, who lead the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. They said last year they intended to nominate the three.
The three activists had prominent roles in the protest movement, in which tens of thousands of people blocked streets for 79 days. They were protesting Beijing's decision to restrict elections for the semiautonomous Chinese city's leader by screening out candidates unfriendly to the country's communist leaders. The protests ultimately fizzled out after Beijing refused to back down.
The activists "demonstrated civic courage, extraordinary leadership, and an unwavering commitment to a free and prosperous Hong Kong that upholds the rule of law, political freedoms and human rights," the Congress members wrote.
Wong, 21, Law, 24 and Chow, 27, spent time in prison last year for convictions stemming from the protests, as part of what activists say are efforts by Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government to clamp down on dissent in the aftermath of the protests.
The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in December.