Hong Kong police arrested 53 former lawmakers and democracy proponents Wednesday for allegedly violating the brand new nationwide safety regulation by collaborating in unofficial election primaries for the territory’s legislature final 12 months.
The mass arrests, together with of former lawmakers, have been the most important transfer in opposition to Hong Kong’s democracy motion for the reason that regulation was imposed by Beijing final June to quell dissent within the semi-autonomous territory.
“The operation in the present day targets the energetic parts who’re suspected to be concerned within the crime of overthrowing, or interfering (and) critically destroy the Hong Kong authorities’s authorized execution of duties,” John Lee, Hong Kong’s safety minister, mentioned at a information convention.
He mentioned these arrested have been suspected of attempting to paralyze the federal government, by way of their plans to realize a majority of the seats within the legislature to create a state of affairs during which the chief govt needed to resign and the federal government would cease functioning.
In a video launched by former lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting on his Facebook web page, police turned up at his home and advised him he was “suspected of violating the nationwide safety regulation, subverting state energy.” Police advised these recording the video to cease or threat arrest.
The legislative election that will have adopted the unofficial primaries was postponed by a 12 months by Hong Kong Chief Government Carrie Lam, who cited the general public well being dangers in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Mass resignations and disqualifications of pro-democracy lawmakers have left the legislature largely a pro-Beijing physique.
Lee mentioned the police wouldn’t goal those that had voted within the unofficial primaries, which have been held in July final 12 months and attracted greater than 600,000 voters regardless that pro-Beijing lawmakers and politicians had warned the occasion may breach the safety regulation.
All the pro-democracy candidates within the unofficial primaries have been arrested, in line with tallies of the arrests being reported by the South China Morning Submit, on-line platform Now Information and political teams.
At the least seven members of Hong Kong’s Democratic Occasion — the town’s largest opposition celebration — have been arrested, together with former celebration chairman Wu Chi-wai. Former lawmakers Lam, Helena Wong and James To have been additionally arrested, in line with a submit on the celebration’s Fb web page.
Benny Tai, a key determine in Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy Central protests and a former regulation professor, was additionally arrested, studies mentioned. Tai was one of many major organizers of the primaries.
The house of Joshua Wong, a distinguished pro-democracy activist who’s serving a 13 1/2-month jail sentence for organizing and collaborating in an unauthorized protest final 12 months, was additionally raided, in line with a tweet posted from Wong’s account.
American human rights lawyer John Clancey was additionally arrested on Wednesday. Clancey was the treasurer of political group Energy for Democracy, which was concerned within the unofficial primaries.
“We have to work for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong,” Clancey mentioned as he was being led away by police, in a video posted by native on-line information outlet Citizen Information.
Police additionally went to the headquarters of Stand Information, a distinguished pro-democracy on-line information web site in Hong Kong, with a court docket order handy over paperwork to help in an investigation associated to the nationwide safety regulation, in line with a livestreamed video by Stand Information. No arrests have been made.
Lee additionally pointed to a “10 steps to mutual destruction” plan amongst these arrested, which included taking management of the legislature, mobilizing protests to paralyze society and calling for worldwide sanctions.
That plan was beforehand outlined by former regulation professor Tai. He predicted that between 2020 and 2022, there can be 10 steps to mutual destruction, together with the pro-democracy bloc profitable a majority within the legislature, intensifying protests, the pressured resignation of Lam as a result of budget invoice being rejected twice, and worldwide sanctions on the Chinese language Communist Occasion.
The idea of mutual destruction — during which each Hong Kong and China would endure damages — is fashionable amongst some protesters and pro-democracy activists.
“The plot is to create such mutual destruction that if profitable … will lead to severe injury to society as a complete,” mentioned Lee. “That’s the reason police motion in the present day is important.”
Senior Supt. Steve Li from the nationwide safety unit mentioned that 53 individuals have been arrested in an operation that concerned 1,000 officers. The 45 males and eight girls have been aged between 23 and 79, in line with a police assertion.
Six have been arrested for subverting state energy by organizing the unofficial primaries, whereas the remaining have been arrested for allegedly collaborating within the occasion, Li mentioned. He mentioned extra arrests might be made and investigations have been ongoing.
Alan Leong, chairman of the pro-democracy Civic Occasion in Hong Kong, mentioned at a information convention held by the pro-democratic camp on Wednesday that plans to train voting rights to veto the finances and ultimately oblige the chief govt to step down are rights enshrined within the Fundamental Regulation.
The arrests have been an “affront to the constitutionally protected rights to vote” in Hong Kong, Leong mentioned.
“We don’t see how by promising to train such rights may finish them up as being subversive,” he added.
Beijing helps Hong Kong police of their finishing up of “their duties in accordance with the regulation,” mentioned Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Overseas Affairs.
“The rights and freedom Hong Kong individuals loved haven’t been affected in any approach,” Hua mentioned at a every day briefing with journalists. “What was affected was that some exterior forces and particular person individuals in Hong Kong colluded with one another in an try to undermine the soundness and safety of China.”
In latest months, Hong Kong has jailed a number of pro-democracy activists, together with Wong and Agnes Chow, for his or her involvement in anti-government protests, and others have been charged underneath the nationwide safety regulation, together with media tycoon and outspoken pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai.
The safety regulation criminalizes acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with overseas powers to intervene within the metropolis’s affairs. Critical offenders may face up a most punishment of life imprisonment.
Lam had mentioned on the time of the unofficial primaries final 12 months that if their goal was resisting each coverage initiative by the Hong Kong authorities, the election could fall underneath subverting state energy, an offense underneath the nationwide safety regulation.
Beijing had additionally referred to as the primaries unlawful and a “severe provocation” of Hong Kong’s electoral system.
Following the handover of Hong Kong to China by the British in 1997, the town has operated on a “one nation, two programs” framework that affords it freedoms not discovered on the mainland. Lately, Beijing has asserted extra management over the town, drawing criticism that it was breaking its promise of Hong Kong sustaining separate civil rights and political programs for 50 years from the handover.
The sweeping arrests drew condemnation from Anthony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State nominee for the upcoming Biden administration, who mentioned on Twitter that it was an “assault on these bravely advocating for common rights.”
“The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the individuals of Hong Kong and in opposition to Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” Blinken wrote in his tweet.
Human Rights Watch mentioned the arrests counsel Beijing has did not be taught that repression generates resistance. HRW senior China researcher Maya Wang mentioned in a press release that “hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong individuals will persist of their wrestle for his or her proper to vote and run for workplace in a democratically elected authorities.”
In additional remarks to The Related Press, Wang mentioned it wasn’t clear what provisions of the regulation have been being cited to justify the arrests, however that native authorities appear much less involved with authorized substance.
“The very nature of the nationwide safety regulation is as a draconian blanket regulation permitting the federal government to arrest and doubtlessly imprison individuals for lengthy phrases for exercising their constitutionally protected rights,” Wang mentioned.
“The veneer of rule of regulation can be utilized in mainland China stripped of any which means. Hong Kong is wanting extra like mainland China however the place one ends and the opposite begins is difficult to discern,” she mentioned.