Hong Kong police arrested 53 people in raids on democracy activists on Wednesday, with authorities saying last year’s unofficial vote to choose opposition candidates in city elections was part of a plan to “overthrow” the government.
Dawn raids on 72 premises saw many of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy advocates arrested in the biggest crackdown since Beijing imposed a new, controversial security law in the former British colony in June 2020. The mass arrests were linked to an unprecedented, independently organised and non-binding vote last July to select opposition candidates for a since-postponed legislative election. About 1,000 police took part in the raids, which included searches of the offices of a pollster and a law firm. Secretary for Security John Lee said the group had planned to cause “serious damage” to society and that authorities would not tolerate any subversive acts. The arrests will further raise alarm that Hong Kong has taken a swift authoritarian turn. The crackdown based on the June 2020 security law, which critics say crushes wide-ranging freedoms promised when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, places China further on a collision course with the United States just as Joe Biden prepares to take over the presidency.