Hong Kong Security Forces Arrest Pro-Democracy Figures Under New National Security Law

Hong Kong’s national security police have apprehended six individuals across the city, including a pro-democracy barrister already in custody, under the auspices of a new security law for purported seditious activities.

Security Secretary Chris Tang disclosed to reporters that the arrests were made on suspicions of utilizing a Facebook platform to propagate sentiments of animosity towards the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, as well as the judiciary. Among those detained is Chow Hang-tung, a prominent barrister and pro-democracy advocate who has been held since September 2021 at a high-security women’s prison.

These arrests mark the first enforcement actions under a fresh set of national security laws endorsed by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing legislature in March, despite global apprehension expressed by nations like the US, fearing ramifications for Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub.

Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997, under the “one country, two systems” framework, guaranteed its freedoms for 50 years, including freedom of speech. However, criticism has mounted over the recent crackdown on dissent and media outlets, purportedly undermining the city’s dynamism and economic prospects.

The Hong Kong and Chinese authorities contend that the national security legislation has reinstated stability following the 2019 pro-democracy protests. However, ongoing concerns persist, particularly as the city’s high court prepares to issue a pivotal verdict affecting 16 prominent Hong Kong democrats, potentially leading to their imprisonment over alleged government subversion.

Chow and the other arrestees are accused of disseminating seditious content on social media platforms, particularly concerning an “upcoming sensitive date,” reportedly June 4, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The offence carries a maximum seven-year jail term.

Chow, a former leader of the Alliance pro-democracy group, now faces additional charges related to incitement to subversion, alongside two former Alliance leaders, Albert Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan.

The crackdown underscores the authorities’ resolve to curtail dissent, with warnings that anonymity online won’t shield individuals from scrutiny under the national security law.

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