HONG KONG, Dec 8, 2020 (AFP) – Eight Hong Kong democracy activists including three former lawmakers were arrested Tuesday for their part in a July protest, the latest in a broad crackdown by authorities under a sweeping new security law.
The detained include veteran activist “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, the former chief of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party Wu Chi-wai, ex-legislator Eddie Chu and Figo Chan, the organizer of an annual rally marking the British handover of the city to China in 1997.
Police said they are suspected of inciting, organising and joining an “unauthorised assembly” on July 1, for which they could face a maximum of five years in prison.
The arrests came hours after the United States sanctioned 14 top Chinese officials in retaliation for Beijing’s disqualification of pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong’s legislature last month.
Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong on June 30, a move aimed at crushing dissent in the international financial hub following months of huge and often violent protests last year.
It targets four vaguely worded crimes: subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets the day after its passage, leading to the arrest of over 370 people, including some for carrying banners and flags adorned with pro-democracy slogans.
Hong Kong’s administration insists the law has not impinged on the rights to freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed to the territory when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
But activists have spoken of a chilling effect over the city’s opposition, as certain opinions and actions became illegal almost overnight.
On Monday, police arrested three people for chanting banned slogans at a university campus last month, accusing them of unlawful assembly and “inciting secession”.
Last week leading dissident Joshua Wong and two other prominent activists were jailed over a 2019 rally outside police headquarters. su/jfx/reb/oho Agence France-Presse