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 prepare a casual main election final yr for the town’s legislature.
The mass arrests marked the most important roundup but below the nationwide safety regulation, which the central Chinese authorities launched in Hong Kong in June to finish months of fierce anti-Beijing protests. The transfer steered that the authorities have been casting a large web for anybody who had performed a distinguished function in opposing the federal government, even after officers promised that the regulation would have an effect on solely a small variety of folks.
The Hong Kong police didn’t instantly establish these arrested, and mentioned an actual rely of these detained was not out there.
The alleged offenses additionally underscored authorities officers’ efforts to weaken any significant opposition within the metropolis’s political establishments. Among these arrested have been at the least six former Legislative Council members, quite a few 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 Facebook Live video streamed by Ng Kin Wai, a district councilor, because the police arrived at his door, an officer may very well be heard saying that he was arresting Mr. Ng on suspicion of “subversion of state power.” The officer says he has “reason to believe” that Mr. Ng had participated within the main with a view to win workplace and finally “force Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.” (Under Hong Kong regulation, if lawmakers veto the federal government funds twice, the chief should step down.)
The Twitter account of Joshua Wong, the previous pupil chief who is without doubt one of the most distinguished faces of the Hong Kong protests, mentioned that the police had additionally raided Mr. Wong’s home on Wednesday morning as a result of he had participated within the main.
Mr. Wong is serving greater than a yr in jail for his function in a 2019 protest, a cost not linked to the nationwide safety regulation. Convictions below the safety regulation can result in considerably longer sentences.
According to the social media pages of these arrested or their supporters, at the least a number of the detainees have been accused of subverting state energy — an offense below the safety regulation — as a result of they’d participated within the casual main 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 making an attempt 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.
More than 600,000 Hong Kongers voted within the unofficial main election, largely deciding on newer candidates who favored a extra aggressive strategy towards the federal government, moderately than extra acquainted average faces. Some of the activists arrested on Wednesday have been among the many extra outspoken winners, however the police additionally arrested candidates who had misplaced their main races and have been much less instantly concerned with the mass protests.
The authorities has disqualified candidates for what it calls inadequate loyalty, and several other of the first winners have been later disqualified from the race earlier than it was postponed. In addition, two prime Hong Kong officers, together with Mrs. Lam, had warned forward of the first that those that participated may very well 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 in the city.”
“Repression generates resistance,” Ms. Wang mentioned in a press release, including 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.”
Before Wednesday’s arrests, the police had arrested dozens of different folks below the nationwide safety regulation, together with Jimmy Lai, the media mogul and founding father of the pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
Tiffany May and Austin Ramzy contributed reporting.