John Clancey, a Hong Kong solicitor and American citizen, is led away by police after he was arrested under a new national security law in Hong Kong on Jan. 6. (Photo: Peter Parks/AFP)
The crackdown on Hong Kong's democratic freedoms intensified today with the arrest of more than 50 people including pro-democracy politicians and campaigners.
After a series of early-morning raids, the activists were held under the controversial national security law, which was introduced last year and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison for subversion.
Those arrested included every candidate to have run in the unofficial pan-democrat primaries last year and the first known foreigner, an American lawyer, to be arrested under the law.
The unprecedented sweep more than doubled the number of people arrested under the Beijing-imposed security law, which Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam had said would be used against only criminal elements and would not affect the lives of regular citizens.
Among those named by political parties or local media as arrested were former lawmakers Helena Wong, Lam Cheuk-ting, Chu Hoi-dick, Claudia Mo and Leung Kwok-Hung. Jailed activist Joshua Wong’s home was also raided.
Hong Kong lawyer and US citizen John Clancey was arrested and the offices of his law firm Ho Tse Wai & Partners visited by police. He has spoken in public about the legal ramifications of the security law.
Maya Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the mass arrests removed “the remaining veneer of democracy in the city.”
“Beijing once again has failed to learn from its mistakes in Hong Kong: that repression generates resistance and that millions of Hong Kong people will persist in their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government,” Wang said.
UK-based Hong Kong Watch accused Beijing of undermining Hong Kong’s democracy and breaching its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“The international community must respond with Magnitsky sanctions and other punitive measures demonstrating that an attack on democracy has consequences,” the group said.
About 35 people had been arrested under the security law before today’s raids. Four were charged, including Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai.
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