HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police arrested dozens of elected pro-democracy officers and activists early Wednesday on suspicion of undermining a brand new nationwide safety legislation imposed by Beijing after they tried to prepare an off-the-cuff main election final 12 months for the town’s legislature.
The mass arrests marked the most important roundup but underneath the nationwide safety legislation, which the central Chinese language authorities launched in Hong Kong in June to finish months of fierce anti-Beijing protests. The transfer steered that the authorities had been casting a large web for anybody who had performed a outstanding function in opposing the federal government, even after officers promised that the legislation would have an effect on solely a small variety of individuals.
The Hong Kong police didn’t instantly establish these arrested, and mentioned an actual rely of these detained was not accessible.
The alleged offenses additionally underscored authorities officers’ efforts to weaken any significant opposition within the metropolis’s political establishments. Amongst these arrested had been a minimum of six former Legislative Council members, a variety of district councilors — a hyperlocal elected place dominated by pro-democracy figures — and a number of other activists. They included figures who had known as for aggressive confrontation with the authorities and those that had supported extra average ways.
In a Fb Stay video streamed by Ng Kin Wai, a district councilor, because the police arrived at his door, an officer could possibly be heard saying that he was arresting Mr. Ng on suspicion of “subversion of state energy.” The officer says he has “cause to consider” that Mr. Ng had participated within the main with the intention to win workplace and finally “drive Chief Government Carrie Lam to resign.” (Beneath Hong Kong legislation, if lawmakers veto the federal government finances twice, the chief should step down.)
The Twitter account of Joshua Wong, the previous pupil chief who is without doubt one of the most outstanding faces of the Hong Kong protests, mentioned that the police had additionally raided Mr. Wong’s house on Wednesday morning as a result of he had participated within the main.
Mr. Wong is serving more than a year in jail for his function in a 2019 protest, a cost not linked to the nationwide safety legislation. Convictions underneath the safety legislation can result in considerably longer sentences.
In response to the social media pages of these arrested or their supporters, a minimum of among the detainees had been accused of subverting state energy — an offense underneath the safety legislation — as a result of that they had participated within the casual main in July. The group had hoped to pare down the variety of candidates planning to run within the Legislative Council election in September.
That election was by no means held as a result of the Hong Kong authorities postponed it by one year, citing coronavirus issues. Many democracy supporters accused officers of attempting to stop an embarrassing loss for the pro-Bejing camp. Then, in November, the authorities disqualified 4 pro-democracy incumbents within the Legislative Council. The remaining opposition members resigned in protest.
Greater than 600,000 Hong Kongers voted within the unofficial main election, largely selecting newer candidates who favored a more aggressive approach towards the federal government, reasonably than extra acquainted average faces. A number of the activists arrested on Wednesday had been among the many extra outspoken winners, however the police additionally arrested candidates who had misplaced their main races and had been much less immediately concerned with the mass protests.
The federal government has disqualified candidates for what it calls inadequate loyalty, and a number of other of the first winners had been later disqualified from the race earlier than it was postponed. As well as, two high Hong Kong officers, together with Mrs. Lam, had warned forward of the first that those that participated could possibly be accused of subversion.
Human rights teams condemned the mass arrests. Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, mentioned the authorities had eliminated “the remaining veneer of democracy within the metropolis.”
“Repression generates resistance,” Ms. Wang mentioned in a press release, including that “hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong individuals will persist of their battle for his or her proper to vote and run for workplace in a democratically elected authorities.”
Earlier than Wednesday’s arrests, the police had arrested dozens of different individuals underneath the nationwide safety legislation, including Jimmy Lai, the media mogul and founding father of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Every day.
Tiffany Could and Austin Ramzy contributed reporting.