Hong Kong Police Arrest Another 8 Activists Who Protested Beijing’s Anti-Subversion Law

Crackdown against pro-democracy voices intensifies
December 8, 2020 Updated: December 8, 2020

At least eight pro-democracy figures were arrested in Hong Kong on Dec. 8 for their involvement in an unauthorized protest on July 1.

Those arrested included three former opposition lawmakersi—Wu Chi-wai, Eddie Chu, and Leung Kwok-hungi—as well as incumbent opposition district councilors Lancelot Chan, Andy Chui, and Tsang Kin-shing. Wu was the former head of the local Democratic Party.

Also arrested were Figo Chan and Tang Sai-lai—both members of the pro-democracy party League of Social Democrats. Figo Chan is also a deputy convener of the pro-democracy group Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF). CHRF organized many of the peaceful large-scale marches seen across the city after protests erupted in Hong Kong in June last year over possible extraditions to China.

The League of Social Democrats confirmed the arrest of its four members—Leung, Tsang, Figo Chan, and Tang—in a Facebook post calling the arrests “political persecution.” Chu said on his Facebook page that he was arrested at 6:40 a.m. local time. His home was also searched.

The Democratic Party also indicated on Facebook that police searched Wu’s home and demanded that he hand over his clothing worn during the July 1 protest.

According to Hong Kong media, police announced that they had arrested eight men aged between 24 and 64 for violating the city’s Public Order Ordinance. The men are accused of either “inciting, organizing, or knowingly taking part in unauthorized assembly” in relation to “unlawful gatherings” outside of the Court of Final Appeal on June 30 or July 1.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to Chinese rule on July 1, 1997. As a condition of the handover, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promised not to interfere with Hongkongers basic freedoms, which are not granted to mainland Chinese under the communist system, for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

In 2003, on the anniversary of the handover, a massive crowd of 500,000 Hongkongers protested against Beijing’s attempts to introduce an “anti-subversion” clause into Hong Kong’s Basic Law—the city’s mini-constitution—which many Hongkongers believed would lead to suppression of their civil liberties.

Since then, a march has been held every year on July 1 to call for democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Currently, candidates for the city’s top leadership position, the chief executive, are voted in by an electoral committee made up of mostly pro-Beijing elites.

Last year, more than half a million Hongkongers took part in a CHRF-organized march on July 1. This year, police refused to permit the CHRF holding another march on July 1, citing prevention measures to stop the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. At the time, CHRF disputed the decision saying, “public health is only an excuse to deprive our civil liberties.”

The communist party’s rubber stamp parliament imposed the national security law late on June 30, paving the way for Hong Kong authorities to punish vaguely-defined crimes that Beijing deems as succession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces against the CCP with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

CHRF wanted to hold the march on July 1 to renew the protesters’ calls for five demands, which include universal suffrage, as well as voicing opposition against Beijing’s so-called national security law.

Defying a police ban, thousands of protesters joined what was a short-lived march led by Figo Chan, Lancelot Chan, Wu, Chu, and Tsang.

Police fired tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons to break up the protest and arrested more than 350 people, including at least 10 under alleged violations to the national security law.

The latest arrests come just one day after the Hong Kong police arrested another 8 Hongkongers for their involvement in a local university campus protest on Nov. 19.

Among the eight, three were students who have been accused of “inciting others to commit secession” in violation of the national security law.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer