NEW YORK (January 6, 2021) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the Hong Kong government’s mass arrests of 53 opposition activists and politicians in a single day for their participation in last year’s unofficial democratic primary elections for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
Most of those arrested in the January 5 raid were charged with attempting to “overthrow” the city’s government under Hong Kong’s draconian national security law. This is the largest-scale crackdown on pro-democracy activists since the Chinese Communist Party’s widely-criticized, unilateral implementation of the national security law in June 2020.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), along with the puppet Hong Kong government, will not stop until the entire pro-democracy movement is destroyed,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation. “The arbitrary arrests of opposition legislators and civil society activists are an indication of how dangerous Hong Kong has become for those who wish to live in freedom. Those arrested for exercising their fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly must be released immediately.”
Informal democratic primary elections have been held in Hong Kong in the past, and are not against Hong Kong’s election law. In 2018, the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong held primaries in two electoral districts to identify frontrunners. In the 2020 democratic primary elections, a record 600,000 voters turned out to cast ballots for the opposition candidates despite threats of arrests from the pro-Beijing government. Following the large turnout of the primary, the Hong Kong government postponed the election for an entire year, citing COVID-19 concerns.
The majority of those arbitrarily detained in the January 5 raid were opposition candidates running for the Legislative Council or former legislators, prior to a mass resignation of pro-democracy lawmakers in November of last year to protest the erosion of legislative independence from the Chinese government in Hong Kong. Among them were Alvin Yeung, leader of the Civic Party and former legislator, and Gwyneth Ho, frontline reporter-turned-politician. Other arrestees were linked to the organization of the primary, such as Benny Tai, a scholar formerly imprisoned for co-organizing the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and John Clancey, a U.S. citizen and lawyer who serves as chairman of the Asian Human Rights Commission.
The vaguely worded national security law, which was passed against the objections of pro-democracy legislators and due process of the Hong Kong Basic Law, the city’s mini constitution, is being invoked consistently to punish pro-democracy activists. Dozens of other opposition figures, including Jimmy Lai and Agnes Chow, have also been detained and charged with similar allegations in recent weeks.
“The position of the CCP is clear: It cannot permit any chance that the opposition might win a majority in Hong Kong’s legislative body,” said Johnson Yeung, activist from Hong Kong and 2019 HRF Freedom Fellow. “This crackdown happened right after the CCP committed to ratify labor rights treaties under the EU-China trade deal, yet two Hong Kong labor leaders were among those arrested today and now face up to life imprisonment under the national security law. Holding the CCP accountable for its human rights violations should be a top priority globally.”
The Human Rights Foundation is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. For further comment, please contact [email protected]