By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Jan. 6: The Hong Kong police arrested 53 pro-democracy activists, lawmakers and other figures for violating national security law on Wednesday. The police arrested 45 men and eight women aged between 23 to 64 for conducting unofficial election primaries for the city’s legislature last year.
A US citizen John Clancey, an attorney and human rights advocate in Hong Kong, has also been arrested in the crackdown. The US President-elect Joe Biden’s Secretary of State nominee, Antony Blinken condemned the arrests by tweeting that the new administration would “stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.”
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that Beijing backed the arrests and people’s rights and freedoms were not affected. Hong Kong’s Security minister John Lee told a news conference on Wednesday that the operation “targets the active elements who are suspected to be involved in the crime of overthrowing, or interfering [and] seriously destroy the Hong Kong government’s legal execution of duties.”
Prominent activist Joshua Wong is currently serving a 13-month prison sentence along with Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam for organizing an unauthorised protest. A media tycoon and outspoken pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was also arrested last year for violating the security law. In November, all pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en-masse after Beijing passed a resolution that led to the disqualification of four of its party members.
The stringent national security law criminalizes acts of so called subversion, terrorism and association with foreign powers to intervene in the city’s affairs. Offenders of the new law could face up a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the arrests mean the removal of “the remaining veneer of democracy in the city.” Former lawmakers Lam, Helena Wong and James To were also arrested, according to a post on the party’s Facebook handle.