Chatting with reporters later Wednesday, a police spokesman mentioned “the investigation is ongoing, we is not going to rule out arresting extra individuals,” including that greater than 1,000 officers had been concerned within the operation, which noticed 72 areas searched and greater than $200,000 in property frozen.
“With the assist of exterior forces, opposition teams and leaders have intentionally devised plans to carry this so-called ‘main election,’ which is a critical provocation to the present electoral system and triggered critical injury to the equity and justice of the Legislative Council elections,” the Liaison Workplace, Beijing’s high consultant within the metropolis, mentioned on the time.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong police appeared to comply with via on that risk, arresting dozens of main candidates in an early morning sweep, raiding properties throughout town, in addition to a number of media retailers and a legislation agency. Chatting with reporters, Hong Kong Secretary of Safety John Lee mentioned the police operation was solely focusing on “energetic components” within the main, and wouldn’t have an effect on voters.
Lee mentioned these organizing the “so-called main election” had been in search of to “paralyze the Hong Kong authorities” by successful a majority within the legislature in addition to “mobilizing vast-scale riots within the streets” to trigger “such mutual destruction that if profitable (this plan) would end in critical injury to society as an entire.”
“That’s the reason police motion immediately is important,” Lee added.
Amongst these detained are many distinguished former lawmakers, activists and district councilors. An American lawyer, John Clancey, who had assisted within the main polls, was additionally arrested, his colleague Jonathan Man advised CNN.
A US citizen, Clancey may doubtlessly be the primary international citizen who doesn’t additionally maintain a Hong Kong passport to be arrested below the nationwide safety legislation. A few of these beforehand arrested could maintain dual-citizenship, which is permitted in sure circumstances in Hong Kong relying on whether or not somebody was a international citizen previous to town’s handover to Chinese language rule in 1997.
The US Consulate in Hong Kong wouldn’t touch upon the arrests. Clancey’s detention may pose a significant diplomatic situation for Washington, amid an already tense relationship with China.
On Twitter, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, mentioned that “the sweeping arrests of pro-democracy demonstrators are an assault on these bravely advocating for common rights.”
“The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the individuals of Hong Kong and towards Beijing’s crackdown on democracy,” Blinken added.
Wednesday’s arrests mark probably the most dramatic and sweeping escalation below the nationwide safety legislation because it’s introduction final 12 months.
The legislation criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with international powers, with life imprisonment as probably the most critical penalty for all offenses. The legislation additionally established a devoted department of the police and nationwide safety courts to listen to some circumstances.
Hong Kong Chief Government Carrie Lam and others had beforehand promised the legislation can be restricted in impact, and solely goal a small variety of fringe activists.
“Throughout 2020, you had been a part of the ’35+’ main elections, designed to elect 35 or extra members of the Legislative Council with the aim of vetoing all authorities finances insurance policies and motions with the intention to pressure the Chief Government to resign,” the arresting officer says within the video. “(Such acts would) severely intrude with and hinder the lawful obligations of the federal government.”
Such a scheme had been proposed by distinguished professional democracy activist Benny Tai as a possible tactic to restart the long-stalled political reform course of in Hong Kong, within the unlikely state of affairs that pro-democracy candidates received a majority within the semi-democratic legislature, the place round half of seats are assigned to so-called “purposeful constituencies,” chosen by enterprise and different groupings that are likely to favor Beijing.
Voting towards the finances and forcing the chief govt to resign would have been authorized previous to the nationwide safety legislation, much like a “vote of no confidence” that prompts a basic election in lots of democracies. The town’s structure additionally accommodates provisions to take care of such an occasion, enabling the chief govt to name new legislative elections, and to go a preliminary finances to allow the federal government to proceed to operate.
‘Disgraceful and ridiculous’
These detained embrace former Democratic Occasion lawmakers James To, Andrew Wan, and Lam Cheuk-ting, who had till late final 12 months been members of town’s Legislative Council, earlier than they and all different members of the pro-democracy bloc stepped down in protest of the federal government’s resolution to eject a number of lawmakers.
Joshua Wong, the distinguished democracy activist jailed late final 12 months, can also be being investigated in relation to the first. His house was raided Wednesday morning, a submit on his verified social media mentioned.
“I misplaced depend already. However imagine all who participated within the pro-democracy main in Hong Kong final 12 months shall be arrested, organizers included,” Lo Kin-hei, chairman of the Democratic Occasion, mentioned on Twitter. “Very possible over 40 and even 50.”
A legislation agency linked to the first, Ho Tse Wai and Companions, was additionally raided early Wednesday, lawyer Jonathan Man confirmed to CNN. Stand Information, a pro-democracy-leaning media outlet, was additionally visited by police, in response to a video posted on-line.
Former lawmaker Emily Lau described the clampdown as “disgraceful and ridiculous.”
“How can individuals participating in a main election to pick candidates be subversive and in breach of the Nationwide Safety Regulation,” she mentioned. “This can be a blatant try and intimidate professional democracy activists and warn individuals to not have interaction in politics and collaboration.”
Chatting with CNN late final 12 months, Shum — an elected district councilor — predicted it was a matter of when, not if, he can be arrested, and certain ejected from his seat.
“After 2019, I believe we face an entire crackdown on democratic motion. And on the stage of District Council, we’re popularly elected by Hong Kong individuals … they usually might even see that as a risk,” Shum mentioned.
Chief Government Lam appeared to deal with town’s political discord in her New Yr’s tackle. “Each time there are quarrels in society, the truth is individuals pay a hefty worth,” she mentioned. “That’s the reason for 2021, my greatest hope is for society to have concord. In order that the SAR authorities, and different public our bodies, have extra room to do concrete issues for Hong Kong.”