Crime & Justice

53 Hong Kong pro-democracy figures arrested Beijing’s biggest crackdown yet

Shirley Lau

Hong Kong, Jan 6 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong police arrested 53 pro-democracy politicians and activists on Wednesday for allegedly violating Beijing’s national security law in relation to unofficial election primaries held last year.

Police deployed some 1,000 officers in what is by far the largest arrest operation targeting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp since the law was enacted following the 2019 anti-government protest movement.

Ex-legislators who recently resigned from the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) en masse, young and emerging politicians, and a prominent law scholar were among those arrested in the raid, which has sent shockwaves through the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

They had either taken part in or helped organize the primary elections held on July 11 and 12, 2019, which drew more than 610,000 Hongkongers to cast their ballots.

The 53 include veteran activist “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Civic Party founding member Claudia Mo, Wu Chi-wai and Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party, young district councilors Lester Shum, Ng Kin-wai and Tiffany Yuen, and Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front that was behind numerous mass demonstrations in the past.

Benny Tai, former law professor of the University of Hong Kong, who co-organized the primaries, and American lawyer John Clancey, treasurer of the group Power for Democracy, another of the election organizers, were also among those arrested.

The poll, involving only politicians in the pro-democracy camp, invited voters to select which candidates would stand in the September 2020 LegCo election.

They hoped to secure a majority by winning more than 35 seats, a plan known as “35+”. However, the quadrennial LegCo election was later suspended by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who cited risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Right after the primaries, Lam warned that the poll, if aimed at achieving “35+” and therefore blocking government policies, could violate the national security law that bans acts of subversion.

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