H.ong Kong democracy activists and opposition politicians were among the dozen of people detained on suspicion of violating the city’s controversial national security law. This appeared to be the largest summary of China-imposed legislation to date.
Former lawmakers Alvin Yeung, James To, Andrew Wan and Lam Cheuk-ting, as well as noted academic and activist Benny Tai, were arrested Wednesday morning by the Police National Security Division on allegations of subversion. This is evident from Facebook posts and media reports. The allegations related to an informal primary election that saw more than 600,000 voters vote in July to select candidates for a September general election that was later postponed by the government.
Around 50 people were carried away by the police during the operation, reported local media, including the channels Now TV and TVB. A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The activist Ventus Lau was arrested in connection with the primaries organized by the pro-democracy side for the parliamentary elections last year, said a Lau employee in a WhatsApp post. Apple Daily reported that Robert Chung, a pollster who helped develop the website and count the votes for the elementary school, was arrested.
Also arrested was former lawmaker Claudia Mo, a leading opposition figure and one of the city’s most outspoken critic of China’s policy in Hong Kong.
The mass arrests of largely moderate pro-democracy activists accelerate sustained political crackdown in the Asian financial center that has resulted in the condemnation of foreign governments, US sanctions and the suspension of numerous extradition treaties with Hong Kong. The move comes when the outgoing Trump administration continues to hit Beijing for its assertive politics in the city and President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office this month, with China posing one of the top foreign policy challenges facing his administration.
“This is a total recap of all opposition leaders,” said Victoria Hui, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, who specializes in Hong Kong politics. “If running for office and trying to win elections means subversion, it is clear that the NSL is aiming at the total submission of the people of Hong Kong. There should be no expectation of elections in any way that we know if and when elections will be held in the future. “
The main opposition competition at the center of the latest round of police forces attracted 610,000 residents – more than 13% of the city’s registered voters – to the elections that are common in democracies around the world. The turnout highlighted the dynamism of the historic protest movement in Hong Kong, which the pro-democracy opposition hoped to capitalize on in an election to the Legislative Council originally scheduled for September.
Opposition officials hoped to gain access to a provision in the city’s charter to force executive director Carrie Lam to resign by voting her budget. The primaries were condemned by China’s top Hong Kong agencies as “unlawful manipulation” of the city’s electoral system and as a violation of national security law.
However, the Hong Kong government initially disqualified a number of opposition activists and delayed the election for a full year, citing the coronavirus.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said at the time that there was “no valid reason for such a long delay” and that the “unfortunate action confirms that Beijing has no intention of honoring the commitments it made to the people of Hong Kong is “.
“The political cleansing in Hong Kong continues,” said US-based activist Samuel Chu, executive director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council. The Chinese Communist Party “is restoring the rule of law and government in Hong Kong in its own image as a lightning-fast authoritarian one-party regime”.
The national security law was imposed on the former British colony by Beijing in June and sparked international condemnation led by the US for failing to honor its promises to guarantee the city’s unique freedoms after the return of Chinese rule.
While Chinese officials established the legislation – which bans subversion, terrorism, secession, and collusion – using foreign forces as a necessary tool to suppress local unrest and restore stability to the city after historic protests in 2019, the law has so far been mainly applied against nonviolent political opponents and dissidents.
Chu, the US-based activist, said he had already briefed key government and congressional leaders and offices on the events in Hong Kong.
“I can assure you that if Beijing intends to take advantage of the president’s transition and a new Congress, its actions will not go unnoticed by US officials,” he said. “I believe this is part of a series of measures to test the determination and commitment of the new Biden administration to Hong Kong and the new Congress – and I am confident that neither will give up their strong commitment to Hong Kong.”
–With the support of Kari Lindberg and Young-Sam Cho.
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