Conflicts & War

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy figures defiant after release on bail

Shirley Lau

Hong Kong, Jan 8 (efe-epa).- Pro-democracy politicians and democracy advocates who were arrested in droves over the last two days for alleged subversion have denounced the authorities for cracking down on dissent after most of them were released on bail Thursday night.

None of the 55 activists – 53 of whom were rounded up on Wednesday and two arrested Thursday while in prison – has been charged yet.

By Thursday night, all but one of the 53 had been granted bail. Former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai is the only one who remains in custody as he has allegedly failed to surrender his passport after a previous arrest in a separate case.

Prominent activists Joshua Wong and Tam Tak-chi, arrested Thursday, were not granted bail since Wong is currently serving a 13.5-month prison term for a separate case related to an illegal protest, while Tam has been remanded in custody since September after being arrested for various protest-related charges.

Many of those released Thursday had to pay a cash bail of HK$30,000 (about $3,870) and surrender their passports. They are required to report to the police in February.

Released from different police stations at different hours on Thursday, many of the ex-lawmakers, district councilors and democracy advocates sounded defiant when they spoke to waiting journalists.

Legal scholar Benny Tai, whom police accuses of instigating an “evil plot” against the government, said Hong Kong had entered “a cold winter” with “vehement and freezing wind blowing,” but he believed “many Hong Kong people will use their own means to sail against the wind.”

Former lawmaker Raymond Chan of the People Power party said the Hong Kong government was using all means to “wipe out” the pro-democracy camp. Andrew Wan of the Democratic Party said the arrest “won’t intimidate us.”

On Wednesday morning, the 53 were arrested under the Beijing-imposed national security law in a sweeping police operation involving over 1,000 officers, the biggest to target Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp so far.

All the arrestees had either participated in or allegedly helped organize the pro-democracy camp’s primary elections held on July 11 and 12, 2020, in the lead-up to a quadrennial Legislative Council election in September.

The objective of the poll, which drew more than 610,000 Hongkongers to vote, was to narrow the final pro-democracy candidate list to maximize the chances of the pro-democracy camp to gain a majority at the legislature. But the plan could not be realized as the government later suspended the election, citing COVID-19 fears.

The arrestees stand accused of subverting state power through the unofficial primaries, which the authorities said were meant for the pro-democracy camp to gain a majority at the legislature and then paralyze the government by voting down its budget.

People convicted of violating the national security law, enacted by Beijing on Jun. 30, could face a punishment of up to life imprisonment. EFE-EPA

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