Hong Kong – Police have arrested dozens of pro-democracy figures in an investigation into alleged sabotage under National Security Act, Targeting most of the opposition camp leadership in the largest sweep since the legislation was imposed by China six months ago.
Among those arrested in the early hours of Wednesday morning were most of the pro-democracy politicians who sought to run in the city elections. The aborted Legislative Council elections last yearIn addition to other prominent activists and academics. These measures constituted a dramatic escalation in efforts to silence dissent in the global financial center, which it was suffering from. Anti-government street protests for months In 2019.
The arrests, which began around 6 am in the detainees’ homes, are related to Informal primary elections were held last year By the Democratic camp to select candidates before the planned legislative elections, some detainees said on social media. Police declined to comment.
“It’s a blatant attempt to intimidate pro-democracy activists and warn people against engaging in politics and cooperation,” said Emily Lau, who served seven terms as a lawmaker and is a former Democratic Party chief in the city.
The gathering of opposition figures in large numbers indicates Beijing’s determination to crush opposition in the city despite the chorus of international condemnation. The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized China for undermining the partial autonomy of the city through arrests and disqualification of candidates for elections and other measures.
“The mass arrests of pro-democracy protesters are an assault on those who bravely defend universal rights,” Anthony Blinken, president-elect
Joe BidenThe foreign minister candidate said in a post on Twitter. “The Biden Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.”
Activists say Hong Kong risks wiping out its reputation as a safe base for international businesses and expatriate professionals as the rights to free speech and assembly erode. Street protests faded last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, which police have cited to ban such gatherings, but some lawmakers and other political opponents have continued to speak out in defense of people’s freedoms and criticize the government.
City chief executive Carrie Lam praised the National Security Act to restore stability to the city. In December, she told attendees at the CEB Summit for the Wall Street Journal that he is with Law and order in the city With security law enforcement restored, Hong Kong has a promising prospect and it is a “good time” for companies to invest in the city.
The arrests on Wednesday represented a significant increase in the number of detainees under the new law, which gives authorities wide freedom to try people on charges of collusion, separation, and incitement to sedition. Before Wednesday, around 40 people had been arrested under the law, while state media revealed that there were about 30 exiled activists on the wanted list.
The prosecution has so far brought charges under the Security Law against four of the detainees, Including a media mogul
One of the people arrested Wednesday, Ing Ken Wai, recorded his arrest via Facebook Live. In the recording, a police officer said he was accused of subversion for his participation in the primaries aimed at disrupting the Hong Kong government, a crime under the National Security Act.
In July, the opposition camp participated in the self-organizing primaries, less than two weeks after the imposition of the Security Law, as part of a political strategy to select preferred candidates for the elections scheduled for September. The goal of the event was to gain a majority in the 70-seat legislature, which some participants said they would use to block government legislation. Organizers said at the time that about 600,000 of the crowd had cast their votes.
Mrs. Lam, the City Chief Executive, warned at the time that the opposition’s goal of challenging every political initiative of the government might fall into the category of Undermining the authority of the state.
This was told to many of those who participated in the primaries weeks later Their nominations for the September elections were invalidAuthorities have expressed concerns about their loyalty to the city and its constitution. Shortly after disqualifying, the government postponed elections for a year, citing the coronavirus pandemic, and extended the current Legislative Council.
In November, Beijing was forced to fire four Pro-democracy members From the interim legislature for being insincere. This led to a mass resignation from the pro-democracy camp, and some foreign governments have criticized it as disemboweling elected institutions.
“How can the people who participate in the primaries to select candidates be destructive?”
The arrests on Wednesday raised fears of eroding opposition in the former British colony, which already had limited democratic institutions.
“This is disgraceful and ridiculous. How can people taking part in the primaries to select candidates be subversive,” said Ms. Lau, a former legislator.
Among those arrested, Wednesday, were politicians from a number of pro-democracy parties, according to accounts on social media. They included former lawmakers James Toe and Alvin Young and new generation activists such as former journalist Gwyneth Hu and Lester Schum, who was a student leader during the 79-day street occupation in 2014 known as the Umbrella Movement.
Local media reported that authorities have arrested legal academic Benny Tay, one of the organizers of the primaries; And the chief pollster is Robert Chung, who helped with logistics. The authorities also visited Joshua Wong’s home He is currently serving a prison sentence To organize a protest in 2019, according to social media posts from friends writing on his behalf.
Sunny Cheung, a primary participant who has since fled abroad, said the arrests showed that his decision to leave the city after the National Security Act came into effect was correct, albeit painful.
“This is clearly a political purge to wipe out the entire pro-democracy camp,” said Mr. Cheung. “The purge will continue.”
Winxin Fan contributed to writing this article.
Write to Natasha Khan at [email protected]
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