Hong Kong police arrested more than 50 pro-democracy activists on Wednesday in the biggest crackdown yet under the national security law imposed by China.
The 53 individuals were accused of “subverting state power” for independently organizing and participating in primaries in July to pick opposition pro-democracy candidates for the Hong Kong Legislative Council election in September. The election was later postponed by chief executive Carrie Lam, citing coronavirus concerns. Several of the opposition candidates were later disqualified from running.
On Wednesday, Police arrested every candidate who ran in the primaries, as well as organizers, pollsters and the first known foreigner – an American human rights lawyer – under the national security law. More than 1,000 police officers were involved in the operation, searching 72 locations, including a law firm and three news media organizations, who were ordered to hand over information.
Those detained included long-established opposition figures such as James To, Lam Cheuk-ting, Claudia Mo and Benny Tai, young pro-democracy campaigners Lester Shum, Gwyneth Ho, Tiffany Yuen and Jeffrey Andrews, American lawyer John Clancey, two academics and 13 candidates, according to the BBC.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, who was jailed last month with fellow student activists Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, said his home was also raided. Police said the investigation is ongoing and that “we will not rule out arresting more people,” CNN reported.
China imposed a controversial national security law that criminalizes a broad range of acts such as sedition, secession, terrorism and collusions with foreign forces in June last year.
Since then, authorities have arrested activists, journalists and politicians under the law and disqualified four pro-democracy lawmakers, leading all pro-democracy lawmakers to resign.