Hong Kong pro-democracy leader arrested as new security law is used to crack down on dissent

Lo Kin-hei was taken into custody for his role in the anti-extradition movement. Released on bail, he is set to appear in court in August. To avoid arrest, some pro-democracy politicians have adopted a low profile. For Chinese state media, this will not save them from prosecution as the case of pro-democracy icon Anson Chan shows.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Political repression in Hong Kong is getting worse after the mainland China imposed a new security law on the territory.

Yesterday the police arrested Democratic Party Vice Chairman Lo Kin-hei for participating in an unauthorised protest on 18 November, one of the many events organised by the anti-extradition movement between the summer of 2019 and the coronavirus lockdown in January.

The new draconian security measure came into effect on 30 June. It creates the offences of separatism, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces.

The Chinese Communist Party imposed it in order to stifle the pro-democracy movement, which had been demonstrating for a year in favour of Hong Kong autonomy from the motherland and for the maintenance of its more open system.

Lo was released on bail but will have to appear in court in August. He has described the charges against him as "groundless" and "politically motivated".

To avoid possible arrest, some pro-democracy politicians have decided to adopt a low profile. For example, pro-democracy primaries coordinators Au Nok-hin and Andrew Chiu have dropped out.

On 11 and 12 July, more than 600,000 people participated in the vote to choose pro-democracy candidates for the September parliamentary elections. They challenged Hong Kong and mainland authorities, for whom participation in the primaries could be a violation of the new legislation.

Au said he was severing links with the poll because of Beijing’s recent allegations that the poll might violate the national security law.

But this may not be enough to save democratic activists, as shown by the mainland media press campaign against Anson Chan, who served as chief secretary under the last British governor of Hong Kong, and the first chief executive appointed by China after it took over in 1997.

Chan, an iconic figure in the pro-democracy camp, announced last month that she was going to retire to private life. According to Central China TV (CCTV), a mainland public broadcaster, she will not evade “punishment” by retiring.

For China, Chan is a member of the "gang of four" along with media tycoon Jimmy Lai, Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, and Albert Ho, president of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

Recently, the CCTV accused the four pro-democracy advocates of trying to "destroy" Hong Kong with anti-extradition marches, in league with opposition forces, foreign politicians and anti-Chinese organisations. For this reason, they should be indicted under the security law.