More than 50 pro-democracy activists and campaigners, including several former lawmakers have been arrested Wednesday morning in Hong Kong, on suspicion of violating the city’s national security law.
The unprecedented crackdown by authorities on opposition in the region appears to be one of the most significant sweeps yet under the Beijing-drafted legislation. Some 50 people were swept up by police in the operation, local media reported.
Among them are former legislator Alvin Yeung, James To, Andrew Wan, Lam Cheuk-ting who were arrested Wednesday by the police’s national security branch on allegations of subversion, according to Facebook postings.
The activists were reportedly held under the national security law over accusations they “subverted state power” by holding primaries in July and saying they intended to win a majority of seats in the Hong Kong election.
The attempt to win a majority in the 70-seat city legislature, which some candidates said could be used to block government proposals and increase pressure for democratic reforms, was seen as an “act of subversion, in violation of the national security law”, authorities said.
The government had postponed the full election for the legislative council as it cited the coronavirus.
Activist Ventus Lau has also been arrested in relation to last year’s legislative election primaries organised by the pro-democracy camp, a Lau associate said in a WhatsApp post.
The draconian national security law was imposed by Beijing on the former British colony in June despite criticism from the international community.
It punishes what China broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail and has been condemned by the West and human rights groups as a tool to crush dissent in the semi-autonomous, Chinese-ruled city.
Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing say it is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent anti-government and anti-China protests that rocked the global financial hub in 2019.
A police spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday. (Source: The Straits Times)