Hong Kong Police arrested about 50 pro-democracy figures on Wednesday for allegedly new violation National Security Act By participating in informal primary elections held last year to increase their chances of controlling the legislature, according to political parties and local media.
Among those arrested on suspicion of sabotage are former MPs and pro-democracy activists South China Morning Newspaper And online platform now reported the news.
The mass detentions were the biggest move against the democratic movement in Hong Kong since the National Security Act Was imposed By Beijing in the semi-autonomous region in June last year. Police did not immediately comment on the arrests.
At least seven members of the Hong Kong Democratic Party – the largest opposition party in the city – were arrested, including former party chairman Wu Zhi Wai. Former lawmakers Helena Wong, Lam Chuck Ting and James Tu were also arrested, according to a post on the party’s Facebook page.
Benny Tai, a key figure in the 2014 Hong Kong protests and a former law professor, has been arrested by police, according to local media reports. Tai was one of the main organizers of the primaries.
The home of Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist He is serving a sentence of 13 and a half months in prison Due to his organization and participation in an unauthorized protest last year, a raid was also carried out, according to a tweet posted from Wong’s account.
According to statistics based on local media reports of the arrests, all pro-democracy candidates who participated in the unofficial primaries were arrested.
Police also went to Stand News, a prominent pro-democracy online news site in Hong Kong, with a court order to hand over documents to aid an investigation into national security law, according to a live video of Stand News. . No arrests were made.
In recent months, Hong Kong has already imprisoned several pro-democracy activists including Wong and Agnes Chau for participating in anti-government protests, and charges have been brought against others under the National Security Act including media mogul and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.
The Security Law criminalizes acts of sabotage, separatism, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s affairs. Serious violators may face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Pro-democracy activists and lawmakers held informal primary elections last July to see which candidates should present themselves in the now-delayed legislative elections that would boost their chances of getting a majority of seats in the legislature. A majority would allow the pro-democracy camp to vote against bills they deemed pro-Beijing, block budgets and paralyze the government.
More than 600,000 Hong Kong residents voted in the primaries, although pro-Beijing lawmakers and politicians criticized the event and warned it might breach the Security Act, which Beijing imposed on the city to crush opposition after months of anti-government protests.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in July last year that if the primaries were to resist every political initiative by the Hong Kong government, they might fall under the authority of the state, which is a crime under the National Security Act.
Beijing also criticized the primaries, describing them as a “dangerous provocation” to the electoral system in Hong Kong.
After the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the semi-autonomous Chinese city worked on the framework of a “one country, two systems” that provided it with freedoms not found on the mainland. In recent years, Beijing has imposed more control over the city, prompting criticism that Hong Kong’s freedoms are under attack.
Legislative elections, which had been scheduled to take place in September, were later postponed for a year after Lam said holding the elections would be a public health risk given the coronavirus pandemic. The pro-democracy camp denounced the delay, calling it unconstitutional.
In November, all pro-democracy MPs in Hong Kong Collectively quit After Beijing passed a resolution that removed four from its camp, leaving the largely pro-Beijing legislature.
“Beijing has failed once again to learn from its mistakes in Hong Kong: that repression breeds resistance, and that millions of Hong Kong residents will continue their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government,” said senior Chinese researcher at Watch Maya Wang said in a statement on the arrests on Wednesday.
In other remarks to the AP, Wang said it was not clear what provisions of the law were cited to justify the arrests, but local authorities seemed less concerned with the legal substance.
“The nature of the National Security Law is a comprehensive and draconian law that allows the government to detain and possibly imprison people for long periods of time for exercising their constitutionally protected rights,” said Wang.
“The outer shell of the rule of law is also applied in mainland China, devoid of any meaning. Hong Kong looks like mainland China, but it is difficult to discern where one ends and the other begins.”