Hong Kong authorities have arrested pro-democracy activists under the new National Security Law and banned a dozen candidates from joining the Legislative Council election.
On Wednesday, four former members of Student Localism, a group which disbanded on June 30, were arrested for allegedly organizing and inciting secessionist activities under the National Security Law.
Those arrested were former convenor Tony Chung, 18, former spokesman Ho lok-hang, 21, and two former members including Yanni Ho, 17, and Chan Wai-yin, 16.
Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the police’s newly-formed National Security Department said three males and one female between the ages of 16 and 21 were arrested in a series of operations spanning Yuen Long, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun that started on Wednesday afternoon.
Li said the suspects were accused of being involved in posts in an online platform announcing a new group to fight for the establishment of a “Hong Kong nation,” as well as declarations that they would use all means necessary to achieve this end, and that they would like to unite all pro-independence groups in Hong Kong.
The officer added the four are suspected of violating both Article 20 and 21 of the National Security Law, involving secessionist acts, and incitement for others to commit such offenses. Li refused to disclose the name of the new group that the four people were involved in.
According to the Apple Daily, the police could be referring to a new Facebook page, named the Initiative Independence Party, which was set up on July 21. The party said it was founded by former Student Localism members who have completed their studies, while all their members were overseas.
It remained unclear how the four ex-members of the disbanded Student Localism in Hong Kong were linked to the Initiative Independence Party. It was said that Chung was only a follower of the Party’s Facebook page.
Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director Nicholas Bequelin said the arrests of the four were a “significant and alarming moment” for freedom of expression in Hong Kong and would send a chill throughout society.
“Beijing’s secret police are now arresting people under the nefarious National Security Law,” Luke de Pulford, who sits on the British Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission, said in a Twitter post. He called for an urgent response from UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Last month, Beijing passed and implemented the controversial National Security Law for Hong Kong, which allows for extradition of people to the mainland and sentences of life-imprisonment.
It was expected that the newly-established Office For Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong would first target high-profile politicians, media tycoon Jimmy Lai and pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong. Instead, the Office targeted the Student Localism group.
Meanwhile, 12 pro-democracy figures said Thursday that they have received letters from electoral officers saying their Legco nominations have been invalidated.
Four candidates of the Civic Party – Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung and Cheng Tat-hung – were disqualified. The other disqualified people include former Demosisto leader Joshua Wong, Tsuen Wan district councilor Lester Shum, localist Ventus Lau, former Demosisto member Tiffany Yuen, Civic Passion’s Cheng Kam-mun, former journalist Gwyneth Ho and district councilor Fergus Leung and Professional Commons’ Kenneth Leung.
Shum said he was accused by electoral officers of having no intention of embracing the Basic Law and giving his loyalty to the special administrative region.
“Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of the Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s … autonomy and attempts to keep HK’s legislature under its firm grip,” Joshua Wong said in a Twitter post, adding that he had had support from more than 30,000 people in the primaries held by the opposition parties.
About 610,000 people took part in unofficial primary LegCo elections held by the pro-democracy camp on July 11 and 12. The central government said the primaries were illegal and could have violated the National Security Law.
Meanwhile, Britain’s last colonial governor of Hong Kong accused Beijing on Thursday of carrying out “an outrageous political purge” of pro-democracy.
“The National Security law is being used to disenfranchise the majority of Hong Kong’s citizens,” Chris Patten said in a statement.
“It is obviously now illegal to believe in democracy … This is the sort of behavior that you would expect in a police state,” he added.
Media reports said the Hong Kong government would announce the postponement of the Legislative Council election set for September 6 due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Political commentator Yau Ching-yuen said it was likely that Beijing would postpone the LegCo election again in September 2021 as the Chinese Communist Party would celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2021 and would not tolerate any political instability in Hong Kong.
Yau said Beijing’s tough stance would result in stronger sanctions imposed by the United States against China.
On Thursday, the Centre for Health Protection said the number of Covid-19 cases recorded was high at 149, which included five imported cases and 144 local infections, within 24 hours on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong government was heavily slammed by the public after it ordered restaurants to stop offering dining-in services during daytime from Wednesday, forcing a lot of workers to have their lunch boxes outdoor. The government said daytime dining-in services could be resumed from Friday.