01/08/2021, 12.43
HONG KONG - CHINA
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Hong Kong, no charges for the 53 pro-democracy activists arrested for 'subversion'

All released on bail. Police wanted to charge them with aiming to win vote and block government activity. Executive Councillor: Organization of a primary is not a crime. Democratic Front divided: Some call for resistance; others plan to flee.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews / Agencies) – There will be no formal charges for the 53 leading democracy figures arrested for "subversion" on January 6 under the national security law. The city police said today that all but one arrested were given bail: Wu Chi-wai, former president of the Democratic Party, was remanded in custody for not having handed over his passport.

According to the police unit responsible for national security, the 53 arrested are guilty of trying to secure 35 or more seats in the Legco for the democratic front. They would thus have had the numbers to block the approval of the budget law and force Carrie Lam - head of the executive - to resign. In July, they had all had taken part or had contributed to the organization of the democratic primaries to compete in the September legislative elections (later postponed).

Observers note that the security law sought by Beijing is used only as a tool of political repression: vandalism or violence is not punished, as claimed by the authorities when it was passed in June. Those affected are actually citizens who express their opinions without violence and try to organize themselves to participate in the political life of the city, as was done in 2019 with the demonstrations against the extradition law.

On release Benny Tai, the lawmaker behind the Democratic primary, said that the people of Hong Kong "will find the world to overcome adversity." Even members of the city establishment have expressed doubts about the validity of the latest arrests. Ronny Tong, a former lawmaker now Lam's adviser, said yesterday that it's hard to think that organizing a primary election is an act of subversion.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute has stated that it will continue with its business. The polling institute managed the primary in July; for this activity, the police arrested and interrogated some of its directors.

The same cannot be said for several pro-democratic civic groups. In light of the repressive grip of the authorities, some of them have dissolved; others are moving their servers to other countries or destroying databases with information on the volunteer network. Since the introduction of the security law, many democratic activists have fled Hong Kong and found refuge abroad.

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