Beijing, Jan 6 (efe-epa) – Hong Kong’s police on Wednesday arrested several pro-democracy lawmakers and and dozens of other politicians and activists for their alleged violation of the contentious national security law, public broadcaster RHTK reported.
Many of the opposition politicians, including several former lawmakers, were arrested for their participation in primaries in July ahead of the September legislative elections, which were finally postponed by the authorities on the pretext of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is the largest number of arrests since the national security law came into effect on June 30.
A person convicted of violating the law – which punishes secession, subversion, terrorism, and colluding with foreign forces – can face a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The Democratic Party said on Twitter that the police considered the primaries, organized by the Democrats to try to secure a majority in the Hong Kong parliament, “an act of SUBVERSION, in violation of the NSL.”
Among the detainees are former legislators, Leung Kwok-Hung, Gary Fan, Lam Cheuk-ting, Chu Hoi-dick, Au Nok-hin, Alvin Yeung, Wu Chi-wai, James To and Andrew Wan.
One of the organizers of the primaries, Benny Tai, former University of Hong Kong law professor and pro-democracy activist, was among those arrested, as was Robert Chung, executive director of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), a company that provided the technology needed to conduct the primary, local media Hong Kong Free Press reported.
PORI deputy executive director Chung Kim-wah told Commercial Radio that the police asked him to come in to assist in an investigation on Wednesday.
Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at the nonprofit Human Rights Watch, said on Wednesday that “the Chinese government has decided to mark 2021 with sweeping arrests of over 50 prominent pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, removing the remaining veneer of democracy in the city.”
“Beijing once again has failed to learn from its mistakes in Hong Kong: that repression generates resistance, and that millions of Hong Kong people will persist in their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government,” she added.
There have been numerous police raids and arrests of several prominent Hong Kong activists since China enforced the controversial security law.
Some of them have gone into exile to avoid reprisals for activities that, under the new legislation, could constitute a crime. EFE-EPA