Beijing, Jul 30 (efe-epa).- Four students have been arrested in Hong Kong on suspicion of inciting secession under the new national security law, the organization to which they once belonged, Studentlocalism, said in a statement Thursday.
“The Hong Kong Police Force have arrested four former Studentlocalism members today, including three male and one female, ages between 16 and 21,” the organization said.
“All four of them are arrested for violating Article 20 and 21 of the National Security Law, including secession and inciting secession,” it said, adding that they were being held without bail.
Studentlocalism said its former convener Tony Chung Hon-lam was one of those arrested.
At a press conference late Wednesday, Li Kwai-wah, a senior superintendent of a newly formed unit to enforce the security law, accused the detainees of publishing information online about the creation of a new group to fight for the establishment of a Hong Kong republic and that they would use all necessary means to achieve that end.
They had also expressed their intention to unite all pro-independence groups in Hong Kong, he claimed.
These are the first arrests of anti-government activists outside the context of protests, according to the Hong Kong daily newspaper South China Morning Post.
Studentlocalism was one of the pro-democracy organizations of Hong Kong that decided to dissolve hours before the implementation of Beijing’s new, contentious security legislation for the city, which punishes acts of secession, subversion against the state – a charge often used to target government critics, terrorist acts and foreign collusion with up to life in prison.
Li stated that the offenses occurred after July 1, when the law came into force, as it is not retroactive.
This legislation has been opposed by lawyers, activists, journalists and a large segment of the citizens of Hong Kong, who fear it will curb the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous Chinese city, which was a British colony until 1997.
The law came after more than a year of pro-democracy protests that also included violent clashes between the police and some radical protesters, and which have had a negative impact on the local economy.
The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which articulated Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese hands in 1997, established a legally binding treaty whereby Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy had to be safeguarded for at least 50 years from that date.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said on numerous occasions that the clauses of the treaty were fulfilled at the time. EFE-EPA