The arrests were made under the national security law. The accused were charged with trying to force Hong Kong’s chief executive to resign and block government's activity. John Clancey, a former Maryknoll missionary, was also taken into custody. At present, being a pro-democracy candidate is itself a crime in the former British colony.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – About a thousand police officers were deployed this morning to arrest 53 pro-democracy advocates under Hong Kong’s new national security law, the National Security Department announced.
Those arrested are accused of “subversion” for allegedly trying to paralyse government activity and to force Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to resign.
All 53 took part or helped organise primary elections for the pro-democracy camp in July when some 600,000 Hong Kongers voted to choose candidates for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo).
Shortly after that, Lam decided to postpone the elections – scheduled for 6 September – by a year because of the pandemic emergency.
For many observers, the real reason for the delay was that Lam was afraid that the pr-democracy movement could win, as it had already done in the district elections of 2019.
Those arrested include former LegCo Members Alvin Yeung, Andrew Wan, Au Nok-hin, Claudia Mo, Eddie Chu, Gary Fan, Helena Wong, James To, Jeremy Tam, Kwok Ka-ki, Lam Cheuk Ting, Raymond Chan, Roy Kwong and Wu Chi-wai.
Primary organiser Benny Tai was also detained along with district councillors Andrew Chiu, Andy Chui, Ben Chung, Clarisse Yeung, Fergus Leung, Kalvin Ho, Kinda Li, Lawrence Lau, Lee Yue-shun, Lester Shum, Michael Pang, Ng Kin-wai, Ricky Or, Roy Tam, Sam Cheung, Shun Lee, Sze Tak-loy, Tat Cheng, Tiffany Yuen and Henry Wong Pak-yu.
The police also arrested US lawyer John Clancey, a former Maryknoll missionary and a former treasurer of the Power for Democracy group, and the main architect of the pro-democracy primary.
These arrests are a serious blow to the pro-democracy movement, after pro-democracy media magnate Jimmy Lai was remanded into custody on 31 December, also on charges of breaking the security law.
National Security Department senior superintendent Steve Li blames those arrested for trying to secure 35 or more seats in the LegCo for the pro-democracy camp in order to have the numbers to veto the government’s budgets.
Observers note that the security law is only used as a tool of political repression; contrary to the claims of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese authorities when the bill was adopted in June, acts of vandalism or violence have not been punished.
The law has affected people who express their opinions without violence and try to organise themselves to participate in the political life of the city, as was the case in 2019 with protests against the extradition law.
With today's arrests, the leaders of China and Hong Kong show that being a pro-democracy candidate or lawmaker is in itself an act of subversion in the former British colony.
However, this is contrary to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, and the principle of “one country, two systems”, which is foundation on which the territory’s autonomy from the mainland should be based.
In the HKFP photo, from left. above, some of those arrested: Wu Chi-Wai, Lester Shum, Gwyneth Ho, Alvin Yeung, James To, Kwok Ka-ki, Lam Cheuk-ting, Eddie Chu, Ventus Lau, Benny Tai, Raymond Chan, and Leung Kwok-hung.