Hong Kong arrests US lawyer in latest opposition figures’ roundup

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President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for US secretary of state denounced Hong Kong’s arrest of dozens of opposition figures under controversial national security law, an unprecedented crackdown that included a lawyer American.

Police said they swept around 50 people in Wednesday’s operation. Among those arrested were several prominent former lawmakers and allegations centered on an informal primary that drew more than 600,000 voters in July to choose candidates for a September legislative election which was later postponed by the government.

“The mass arrests of pro-democracy protesters are an attack on those who bravely defend universal rights,” tweeted Antony Blinken, Biden’s candidate for secretary of state. “The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.”

Police arrested attorney John Clancey, who served as treasurer to key organizers, according to Jonathan Man, a partner at Ho Tse Wai & Partners in Hong Kong, which has handled hundreds of protest cases and where Clancey is a lawyer. The man said Clancey was an American citizen, which could be a new source of tension between Beijing and Washington.

Clancey is also chairman of the Asian Human Rights Commission and the Asian Legal Resource Center and a founding member of the executive committee of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, according to his biography page of Ho Tse Wai.

Mass arrests of largely moderate pro-democracy activists are accelerating the ongoing political crackdown in the Asian financial hub, which has led to condemnation of foreign governments, US sanctions, and the suspension of many extradition treaties with Hong Kong. The move comes as the outgoing Trump administration continues to slam Beijing for its assertive policy in the city and as Biden prepares to take office this month, with China being one of his administration’s main foreign policy challenges. .

“This is a total sweep of all opposition leaders,” said Victoria Hui, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame specializing in Hong Kong politics. “If running for office and trying to win the election means subversion, it is clear that the NSL is aiming at the total subjugation of the people of Hong Kong. There should be no expectation of elections in any sense that we know if and when elections will be held in the future.

The authorities respond

Security Secretary John Lee said in an afternoon briefing that activists were arrested for planning to create “mutual destruction” in an attempt to cripple the government and that detentions for alleged subversion were necessary. Opposition figures wanted to plunge the city into an “abyss,” Lee said.

Former lawmakers Alvin Yeung, James To, Andrew Wan and Lam Cheuk-ting, as well as prominent scholar and activist Benny Tai, have been arrested by the national security branch of the police on allegations of subversion, according to Facebook media messages and reports. Former lawmaker Claudia Mo, a leading opposition figure and one of the city’s most vocal critics of Chinese policy in Hong Kong, was also detained.

The National Security Act was imposed by Beijing on the former British colony in June, triggering international condemnation by the United States that Beijing was reneging on its promises to guarantee the city’s unique freedoms after its return to the United States. Chinese domination.

While Chinese authorities have justified the legislation – which prohibits subversion, terrorism, secession and collusion with foreign forces – as a necessary tool to quell local unrest and restore stability to the city after the historic protests of 2019 , the law has so far been used primarily against non-violent political opponents and dissidents.

Pro-government lawmaker Holden Chowtweetedthat those arrested on Wednesday had violated the security law because they had a “clear objective of crippling” the local government and threatening to “remove Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong”. Continental and Constitutional Affairs Secretary Erick Tsang said ahead of last July’s primaries that he could violate national security laws.

At the time, Tai dismissed such a criticism of the primary as “absurd.”

Primary affected

The opposition primary competition At the heart of the latest police raid drew 610,000 residents to the polls – more than 13% of the city’s registered voters – in a procedural exercise common in democracies around the world. The turnout underscored the momentum generated by Hong Kong’s historic protest movement, which the pro-democracy opposition hoped to capitalize on in a Legislative Council election originally slated for September.

Opposition figures were hoping to access a provision in the city’s charter to force chief executive Carrie Lam to resign by voting against her budget. The primary has been condemned by major Chinese agencies for Hong Kong as “illegal manipulation” of the city’s electoral system and a violation of the National Security Act.

The Hong Kong government first disqualified a number of opposition figures and then delayed the election by a year, citing the coronavirus.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said at the time that there was “no good reason for such a long delay” and that “the regrettable action confirms that Beijing does not intend to abide by the commitments he made to the people of Hong Kong ”.

“The political purge continues in Hong Kong,” said US activist Samuel Chu, chief executive of the Hong Kong Democracy Council. The Chinese Communist Party “is in the process of remaking the rule of law and government in Hong Kong in its own image of an authoritarian one-party regime at lightning speed.”

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