Hong Kong utilizes new legislation to arrest 53 pro-democracy activists

Hong Kong

Hong Kong law enforcement arrested 53 former lawmakers and democracy proponents Wednesday for allegedly violating the new nationwide safety regulation by participating in unofficial election primaries for the territory’s legislature past 12 months.

The mass arrests ended up the premier go towards Hong Kong’s democracy movement because the legislation was imposed by Beijing very last June to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous territory.

“The procedure nowadays targets the active aspects who are suspected to be concerned in the crime of overthrowing, or interfering [in] … the Hong Kong government’s lawful execution of duties,” Hong Kong’s stability minister, John Lee, stated at a news meeting.

He reported those people arrested had been suspected of striving to paralyze the governing administration by making an attempt to acquire a the greater part in the legislature to make a predicament in which the chief executive experienced to resign and the governing administration would halt operating.

A video clip on previous lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting’s Fb web page confirmed law enforcement arriving at his residence and telling him he was “suspected of violating the countrywide safety regulation, subverting point out electric power.” Police informed these recording the online video to end or possibility arrest.

The legislative election that would have followed the unofficial primaries was postponed by a year by Hong Kong Main Govt Carrie Lam, who cited the general public well being challenges in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Mass resignations and disqualifications of professional-democracy lawmakers have remaining the legislature mostly a professional-Beijing human body.

Mr. Lee reported the police would not concentrate on those people who voted in the unofficial primaries, which were being held in July and captivated more than 600,000 voters even even though pro-Beijing lawmakers and politicians had warned the celebration could breach the stability law.

All of the pro-democracy candidates in the unofficial primaries have been arrested, aside from a several who experienced fled the territory, in accordance to experiences by the South China Morning Write-up, online system Now Information, and political teams.

At minimum 7 customers of Hong Kong’s Democratic Get together – the city’s premier opposition occasion – have been arrested, including former party chairman Wu Chi-wai. Former lawmakers Mr. Lam, Helena Wong, and James To have been also arrested, in accordance to a article on the party’s Fb page.

Benny Tai, a crucial determine in Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy Central protests and a previous law professor, was also arrested, stories reported. Mr. Tai was one particular of the major organizers of the primaries.

The dwelling of Joshua Wong, a distinguished pro-democracy activist who is serving a 13 1/2-month jail sentence for organizing and participating in an unauthorized protest final 12 months, was also raided, in accordance to a tweet posted from Mr. Wong’s account.

American human rights lawyer John Clancey was also among the those taken into custody. Mr. Clancey was the treasurer of political team Electric power for Democracy, which was concerned in the unofficial primaries.

“We want to function for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong,” Mr. Clancey claimed as he was remaining led absent by law enforcement, in a video posted by local on the web information outlet Citizen Information.

Police also went to the places of work of Stand News and Apple Day-to-day, two notable professional-democracy news retailers, with a court docket order to hand around files to support in an investigation related to the national protection law, in accordance to the two media outlets. A different on the net information outlet, In-Media, acquired a very similar court order. No arrests had been created.

Mr. Lee pointed to a “10 ways to mutual destruction” system that bundled using management of the legislature, mobilizing protests to paralyze modern society, and contacting for worldwide sanctions.

That strategy was earlier outlined by former regulation professor Mr. Tai. He predicted that amongst 2020 and 2022, there would be 10 techniques to mutual destruction, which include the pro-democracy bloc successful a bulk in the legislature, intensifying protests, the compelled resignation of Ms. Lam because of to the budget monthly bill becoming rejected two times, and intercontinental sanctions on the Chinese Communist Party.

“The plot is to create such mutual destruction that if profitable … will end result in critical hurt to culture as a complete,” mentioned Mr. Lee. “That is why law enforcement motion these days is essential.”

Senior Supt. Steve Li of the countrywide security unit said the procedure concerned 1,000 officers. The 45 adult men and eight females arrested are aged between 23 and 79, in accordance to a police statement.

All have been in police custody except for 1 guy who was granted bail so he could self quarantine, according to the statement. He is anticipated to report to the law enforcement afterwards this month.

6 had been arrested for subverting condition electricity by organizing the unofficial primaries, although the relaxation were being arrested for allegedly taking part in the celebration, Mr. Li reported. He mentioned extra arrests could be made and investigations have been ongoing.

Alan Leong, chairman of the professional-democracy Civic Party in Hong Kong, said at a information conference Wednesday that programs to exercise voting rights to veto the finances and at some point oblige the chief govt to move down are legal rights enshrined in the Basic Legislation, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The arrests have been an “affront to the constitutionally protected rights to vote” in Hong Kong, Mr. Leong said.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Beijing supports Hong Kong police in their carrying out of “their responsibilities in accordance with the regulation.”

“The rights and liberty Hong Kong individuals relished have not been afflicted in any way,” Ms. Hua explained at a every day information briefing. “What was impacted was that some exterior forces and specific individuals in Hong Kong colluded with each individual other in an attempt to undermine the stability and stability of China.”

In current months, Hong Kong has jailed numerous professional-democracy activists, including Mr. Wong and Agnes Chow, for their involvement in anti-govt protests, and some others have been billed below the nationwide stability legislation, such as media tycoon and outspoken pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.

The protection legislation criminalizes functions of subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with international powers to intervene in the city’s affairs. Major offenders could encounter up a highest punishment of everyday living imprisonment.

Ms. Lam had said at the time of the unofficial primaries past 12 months that if their goal was resisting each and every coverage initiative by the Hong Kong government, the election may perhaps fall underneath subverting point out energy, an offense under the countrywide security regulation.

Beijing had also called the primaries illegal and a “serious provocation” of Hong Kong’s electoral system.

Next the handover of Hong Kong to China by the British in 1997, the metropolis has operated on a “one place, two systems” framework that affords it freedoms not uncovered on the mainland. In modern several years, Beijing has asserted far more control above the metropolis, drawing criticism that it was breaking its promise of Hong Kong maintaining separate civil rights and political techniques for 50 a long time from the handover.

The sweeping arrests drew condemnation from Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State nominee for the future Biden administration, who reported on Twitter that it was an “assault on tho
se people bravely advocating for universal rights.”

“The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and towards Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” Mr. Blinken wrote in his tweet.

In Germany, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr reported the arrests “confirm our fears … that the nationwide stability legislation would guide to an erosion of the freedoms, rights and rule of regulation confirmed to Hong Kongers in the Fundamental Legislation.”

The arrests send the “signal that political pluralism is no for a longer time tolerated in Hong Kong,” EU spokesman Peter Stano instructed a press meeting. The stability regulation is currently being utilised “to crush dissent and stifle the exercise of human rights and political freedoms.”

Human Rights Check out senior China researcher Maya Wang said the countrywide safety regulation is a blanket law that will allow the federal government to arrest folks for training their legal rights.

“Hong Kong is searching a lot more like mainland China but the place 1 ends and the other commences is tricky to discern,” she explained. 

This story was described by The Associated Push. AP writer Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.