A total of 53 opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong are facing subversion charges under the city’s draconian national security law as the police is set to bring charges against them.
The police said the former lawmakers and democracy proponents have allegedly violated the new national security law by participating in unofficial election primaries for the territory’s legislature last year.
The activists were arrested on suspicion of “subverting state power” after they took part in a democratic primary election in July 2020, that the authorities said was part of a deliberate attempt to block government bills in the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
Soon after the primary, chief executive Carrie Lam postponed LegCo elections that should have taken place in early September, citing safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the 53 activists said they expect to be charged on Sunday after being asked to report to their local police stations weeks ahead of their next scheduled check-in under bail arrangements.
Former Hong Kong University law professor Benny Tai and founder of the 2014 Occupy Central pro-democracy movement and former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai were among those arrested.
Several former opposition lawmakers were also among the arrestees, including Eddie Chu, James To, Andrew Wan, Jeremy Tam, Gary Fan, Kwok Ka-ki, Helena Wong, Lam Cheuk-ting, Au Nok-hin, and Alvin Yeung, along with Yuen Long District Councillor and primary candidate Ng Kin-wai and District Councillor Tiffany Yuen.
Lam posted a video clip of police officers requesting he attend his local police station on Feb. 28 at 2.00 p.m.
Democracy activist Joshua Wong, who is currently in jail on a separate charge, was also among the group.
Some of the arrestees said they are making mental preparation to be taken into custody, as the chances of being granted bail for charges brought under the national security law are slim.
Pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is in a maximum-security jail awaiting trial for “collusion with foreign forces” under the law, has been repeatedly denied bail.
Current affairs commentator Sang Pu said the CCP is likely pushing ahead with the cases in a bid to test the reaction of the Biden administration.
“The first test is the reaction from the U.S. and the E.U.,” Sang said, although he didn’t see much likelihood that the authorities would slow down.
“The CCP is only going to accelerate its crackdown in Hong Kong from now on,” Sang said.
Police have said the primaries were considered “subversive” because their stated aim was to secure at least 35 seats in LegCo for opposition candidates, so the pro-democracy camp could veto the government’s budgets.
Such an action is regarded as “subversion of state power” under Article 22 of the national security law.
The arrests come after the primaries were criticized in state-run Chinese media as an attempt to foment a “colour revolution.”
After the elections were postponed, the entire pro-democracy camp resigned from LegCo en masse in November 2020, in protest at the ouster of four opposition lawmakers following a decree from the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee in Beijing.
Beijing has since repeatedly warned that only “patriots” who love China and the CCP will be allowed to hold public office in Hong Kong. (Source: RFA)