Hong Kong – Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested dozens of pro-democracy officials and activists suspected of loosening a new national security law imposed by Beijing after attempting to hold an unofficial primary election last year for the city’s legislature .
The mass arrests marked the biggest roundup ever under the National Security Act, introduced in Beijing by the central Chinese government at the end of months of anti-Beijing protests. The move suggested that officials were laying a wide net for anyone who played a major role in opposing the government, even though officials had promised that the law would affect only a small number of people.
The Hong Kong police did not immediately identify those arrested, and said the exact number of people detained was not available.
The alleged crimes also underscored government officials’ efforts to weaken any meaningful protest in the city’s political institutions. Those arrested included at least six former Legislative Council members, several district councilors – hyperlocal elected positions dominated by pro-democracy figures, and several activists. They included figures who called for aggressive confrontations with officials and who supported a more liberal strategy.
In a Facebook live video streamed by Ng YY, a district councilor, as soon as police arrived at his door, an officer can be heard saying he arrested Mr Ng on suspicion of “vandalizing state power”. having had. The official says he has “reason to believe” that Mr Ng ran the primary to win office and eventually “forced Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.” (Under Hong Kong law, if lawmakers veto the government budget twice, the leader should step down.)
The Twitter account of alumni leader Joshua Wong, one of the most prominent faces of the Hong Kong protests, said that police also raided Mr Wong’s house on Wednesday morning as he attended the primary.
Mr. Wong is Serving a sentence in jail for over a year For his role in the 2019 protest, an allegation is not linked to the National Security Act. Under the security law, an agreement can lead to a much longer sentence.
According to social media pages of those arrested or their supporters, at least some detainees have been charged with subjugating state power – a crime under the Security Act – as they participated in an informal primary in July. The group hoped to reduce the number of candidates planning to run in the Legislative Council election in September.
That election was never held because the government of Hong Kong was Postponed it for a year, Citing coronovirus concerns. Many democracy advocates accused the authorities of trying to prevent a disgraceful loss to the pro-Bejing camp. Then, in November, officials disqualified four pro-democracy in the Legislative Council. left over Opposition members resign in protest.
More than 600,000 Hong Kongers voted in the informal primary election, largely Selecting new candidates who favor a more aggressive approach Towards the government rather than the more familiar liberal faces. Some activists arrested on Wednesday were among the more outspoken winners, but police also arrested candidates who had lost their primary race and were directly involved in mass protests.
The government disqualified candidates for insufficient loyalty, and many primary winners were later Unfit race Before it was postponed. In addition, two top Hong Kong officials, including Mrs Lam, warned ahead of the primary that those who participated could be charged with sabotage.
Human rights groups condemned the mass arrests. Maya Wang, China’s senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said authorities “have removed the remaining veneer of democracy in the city.”
“Repression creates resistance,” Ms. Wang said in a statement, “Millions of Hong Kong people will continue in their struggle for the right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government.”
Before Wednesday’s arrest, police arrested dozens of other people under the National Security Act, Including jimmy lye, The media mogul and founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
Tiffany May and Austin Ramzi contributed reporting.