Hong Kong police on the weekend arrested two pro-democracy district councilors, a radio host, and three other people on suspected economic crimes.
They are the latest in a string of high-profile arrests of democracy activists, politicians, and media figures since Beijing’s imposition of the national security law on the city in July.
Police accused the councilors, Henry Wong Pak-yu and Timothy Lee Hin-long, along with a third suspect of conspiring to “defraud” the government by inflating their election expense claims. The three were arrested on Nov. 22.
The radio host Wan Yiu-sing, known as “Giggs,” his wife, and assistant were arrested on Nov. 21 for launching a fundraising campaign to help young Hong Kong activists who have fled to Taiwan. Police said the trio were involved in “money laundering” and “funding others to subvert the country with money or other property.”
On Nov. 22, both Wong and Lee confirmed their detentions on their respective Facebook pages.
Hours later, Lee’s assistant posted on his Facebook page that Hong Kong police searched Lee’s office and found several calligraphies, on which Lee wrote popular pro-democracy slogans such as “Revolution of Our Times,” “Liberate Hong Kong.” The assistant wrote: “The regime might sentence Lee because of his speech.” The slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” was banned by the government in July shortly after the national security law took effect.
Both Wong and Lee are pro-democracy councilors and tried to run for the Hong Kong legislature elections, which were originally slated for September but postponed for a year.
Hong Kong police accused Wong and Lee of claiming HK$4.89 million ($630,800) for the election campaign, as well as receiving a HK$4.5 million ($580,490, or 92 percent) donation from a Hong Kong company called “U Made This.” The former director of the company was also arrested on the same grounds on Sunday.
After the elections were postponed in July, the Hong Kong government promised candidates that they would fully reimburse declared campaign expenses.
Wan, a host at internet radio station D100, his wife, and female assistant were arrested in relation to a project initiated by Wan to collect donations for young Hongkongers who have been forced to escape to Taiwan.
Taiwan has become a popular destination for pro-democracy protesters to seek refuge since Beijing tightened its grip over the city through the national security law.
In August, 12 Hongkongers, aged between 16 and 33, were intercepted by Chinese police as they attempted to flee Hong Kong for Taiwan by boat. They are currently detained at Yantian detention center in the Chinese border city of Shenzhen for allegedly illegally crossing the border.
Police accused Wan and his assistant of money laundering and aiding secession under the national security law. Wan’s wife was accused of money laundering.
Wan’s campaign called “A thousand fathers and mothers: Taiwan education aid program,” was launched in February. On the crowdfunding page, Wan encouraged people to donate $5 to $155 per month to support his radio program as well as the education project.
To avoid donors from being targeted by police, Wan said on his YouTube channel on Aug. 15 that he would delete all donors’ records and wouldn’t record new donors.
Local media reported on Nov. 22 that Wan’s wife was released on bail on HK$150,000 ($19,350). Wan and his assistant were still detained.