At least 53 people were arrested in Hong Kong amid China’s crackdown on the city’s democracy movement, The Washington Post reports.
More than 1,000 officers were involved in raids that led to the arrest of more than 50 people, including former Hong Kong lawmakers, activists, and a US lawyer.
The officers raided homes and offices as part of a crackdown after Beijing passed a new national security law intended to crack down on pro-democracy protests.
Those detained were accused of subversion and could face life in prison after holding a primary vote they were banned from participating in.
“China has moved in recent months to reshape Hong Kong institutions, from schools to the media to the legislature,” the Post reported, “and observers warned that the sweep signaled worse to come.”
“The idea of ‘political opposition,’ a common phenomenon in democratic systems, is seen by Beijing as inherently illegitimate,” Jude Blanchette, the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Post. “It is tragic yet predictable that the Xi administration will continue to squeeze [Hong Kong] until there’s total submission.”
Carl Minzner, a Chinese law expert at Fordham University, said China’s crackdown involves a “particular emphasis on remodeling communities viewed as insufficiently patriotic and loyal” and targeting “institutions that Beijing feels it does not fully control.”
Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken said the arrests were “an assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights” and that the Biden administration would “stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.”
Arrests linked to primary:
The arrests targeted candidates or organizers of a primary in July intended to select pro-democracy candidates.
China called the primary illegal and accused the organizers of trying to improperly seize power.
Hong Kong officials ultimately disqualified many of the winning candidates and postponed its legislative elections.
Wednesday’s raid also targeted three independent Hong Hong media outlets. Officers raided the stations with search warrants looking for information related to the primary.