53 people, ranging from young activists to political veterans, were detained by authorities over an unofficial primary election.
In an unprecedented crackdown over an unofficial election primary organized by pro-democracy parties last year, Hong Kong authorities detained 53 people on Wednesday.
It was the first mass arrest since June’s National Security Law was passed. MPs and candidates, campaigners, pollsters, students and lawyers, ranging from young people to political veterans, were the party suspected of subversion and facing sentences of up to life in jail. Benny Tai is a well-known activist and legal analyst and an election co-organizer in which 600,000 people took part. Tai warned of a backlash, saying “everyone needs to be mentally prepared.” Tai was also an organizer of the demonstrations of the Umbrella Movement in 2014, for which he served in jail for four out of 16 months.
He was fired from his job as a law professor at the University of Hong Kong in July, which he said had been compelled to go to university, which demonstrates Beijing’s determination to monitor the intellectuals of Hong Kong. After the implementation of the National Security Bill, Tai continued to speak out, telling Radio Free Asia in October that “reached a critical mass.” by the number of people in Hong Kong ready to rebel against an oppressive government. He is also the author of a widely circulated opinion article published in April and cited by authorities as evidence of a plot to overthrow the government.
It went through a process in which the Democratic party gained a majority in the Legislative Council, rejected the government budget, and pressured Gov. Carrie Lam to resign, causing demonstrations and the authorities to violently crack down. One of Hong Kong’s most respected pro-democracy figures was James To, 57, a lawyer and former member of parliament. He was the first Democratic Party member to be elected to the Legislative Council at the age of 28 in the first democratic election in 1991. In the primary election, he got nearly 50,000 votes. As the longest-serving member of the Legislative Council, he and the rest of the pro-Democratic camp resigned in November in protest against the disqualification of four of their members. Together with fellow member Eddie Chu and activist Owen Chow, To supported the 12 Hong Kongers intercepted last year while attempting to escape by boat to Taiwan.
Also arrested on Wednesday were Chu and Chow. Winnie Yu, 33, a former intensive care nurse and chairwoman of the Workers Alliance of the Hospital Authority, also ran in the primary election last year. When the Covid 19 pandemic broke out in February, her organization organized a medical sector strike last year, calling on the Hong Kong government to close the city’s border with mainland China and provide sufficient personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff.
Some of those arrested were young activists whose involvement in the primary election was one of their first forays into politics. A group of staff-wielding men assaulted Gwyneth Ho, 29, a journalist who formerly worked for the online media outlet Stand News, during a mob attack in Yuen Long on July 21 last year while she was reporting.
In the primary election, she ran and got 26,802 votes. Tiffany Yuen, 26, was an associate of Joshua Wong, a young activist.
She was the vice president of the now-defunct Demosisto party from 2016-2018, seen by the authorities as a symbol of pro-independence forces. In the 2019 district council elections, she received 19,844 votes, in which the pro-democrats won an overwhelming victory. On Wednesday, Ventus Lau, 26, the spokesperson for the Civil Assembly Squad, which organized several smaller peaceful protests during the 2019 anti-government movement, was also arrested.
During a rally on July 1, 2019, Lau was already charged with sedition for breaching the Legislative Council hall, and faces 10 years in jail for that crime alone. In the primary, he won 26,707 votes.