HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police arrested dozens of elected pro-democracy officers and activists early Wednesday on suspicion of undermining a brand new nationwide safety regulation imposed by Beijing after they tried to arrange an off-the-cuff major election final yr for town’s legislature.
The mass arrests marked the most important roundup but underneath the nationwide safety regulation, which the central Chinese language authorities launched in Hong Kong in June to finish months of fierce anti-Beijing protests. The transfer advised that the authorities had been casting a large web for anybody who had performed a distinguished position in opposing the federal government, even after officers promised that the regulation would have an effect on solely a small variety of individuals.
The Hong Kong police didn’t instantly establish these arrested, and mentioned an actual rely of these detained was not obtainable.
The alleged offenses additionally underscored authorities officers’ efforts to weaken any significant opposition within the metropolis’s political establishments. Amongst these arrested had been at the very least six former Legislative Council members, a lot of district councilors — a hyperlocal elected place dominated by pro-democracy figures — and several other activists. They included figures who had referred to as for aggressive confrontation with the authorities and people who had supported extra average ways.
In a Fb Reside video streamed by Ng Kin Wai, a district councilor, because the police arrived at his door, an officer might be heard saying that he was arresting Mr. Ng on suspicion of “subversion of state energy.” The officer says he has “purpose to consider” that Mr. Ng had participated within the major with a purpose to win workplace and in the end “power Chief Govt Carrie Lam to resign.” (Beneath Hong Kong regulation, if lawmakers veto the federal government finances twice, the chief should step down.)
The Twitter account of Joshua Wong, the previous scholar chief who is likely one of the most distinguished faces of the Hong Kong protests, mentioned that the police had additionally raided Mr. Wong’s house on Wednesday morning as a result of he had participated within the major.
Mr. Wong is serving greater than a yr in jail for his position in a 2019 protest, a cost not linked to the nationwide safety regulation. Convictions underneath the safety regulation can result in considerably longer sentences.
In line with the social media pages of these arrested or their supporters, at the very least a number of the detainees had been accused of subverting state energy — an offense underneath the safety regulation — as a result of that they had participated within the casual major in July. The group had hoped to pare down the variety of candidates planning to run within the Legislative Council election in September.
That election was by no means held as a result of the Hong Kong authorities postponed it by one yr, citing coronavirus issues. Many democracy supporters accused officers of attempting to stop an embarrassing loss for the pro-Bejing camp. Then, in November, the authorities disqualified 4 pro-democracy incumbents within the Legislative Council. The remaining opposition members resigned in protest.
Greater than 600,000 Hong Kongers voted within the unofficial major election, largely choosing newer candidates who favored a extra aggressive strategy towards the federal government, reasonably than extra acquainted average faces. A number of the activists arrested on Wednesday had been among the many extra outspoken winners, however the police additionally arrested candidates who had misplaced their major races and had been much less immediately concerned with the mass protests.
The federal government has disqualified candidates for what it calls inadequate loyalty, and several other of the first winners had been later disqualified from the race earlier than it was postponed. As well as, two prime Hong Kong officers, together with Mrs. Lam, had warned forward of the first that those that participated might be accused of subversion.
Human rights teams condemned the mass arrests. Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, mentioned the authorities had eliminated “the remaining veneer of democracy within the metropolis.”
“Repression generates resistance,” Ms. Wang mentioned in a press release, including 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.”
Earlier than Wednesday’s arrests, the police had arrested dozens of different individuals underneath the nationwide safety regulation, together with Jimmy Lai, the media mogul and founding father of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Each day.
Tiffany Could and Austin Ramzy contributed reporting.