Fifty-three individuals were arrested for alleged subversion under the security law on Wednesday for organising and participating in the legislative primaries run by the democrats last July. Among the detained were prominent pro-democracy activists, former opposition lawmakers and lawyers who helped carry out the city-wide poll. Over 600,000 Hongkongers voted in the unofficial democratic primaries last year which aimed to secure a majority for the democratic camp in the city’s partially-elected legislature.

arrested democrats Jan 6
From L to R: Wu Chi-Wai, Lester Shum, Gwyneth Ho, Alvin Yeung, James To, Kwok Ka-ki, Lam Cheuk-ting, Eddie Chu, Ventus Lau, Benny Tai, Raymond Chan, Leung Kwok-hung.

Former opposition lawmaker Fernando Cheung

It’s a clear signal that the Chinese Communist regime can no longer tolerate any opposition in Hong Kong. It’s an… effort to eradicate the democratic camp. It goes to show that democracy is a dangerous value that can result in incarceration for anyone who attempts to promote it in Hong Kong.

Executive Council Member Ronny Tong

I understand a lot of people are very concerned about certain pan-democrats being arrested by the SAR government in relation to a so-called primary…Under the national security law, there are certain elements which must be satisfied before someone is said to have acted in contrary to the law…

I am also confident that the independent judiciary will function properly because under the national security law, there are clear provisions… providing that the ICCPR and the basic principles of the rule of law would be applicable…I have every confidence that, while a lot of people have been arrested, they will be treated fairly in accordance with the law.

Secretary of State for US President-elect Antony Blinken

The sweeping arrests of pro-democracy demonstrators are an assault on those bravely advocating for universal rights. The Biden-Harris administration will stand with the people of Hong Kong and against Beijing’s crackdown on democracy.

US Senator Ben Sasse

Chairman Xi sees a divided and distracted America, and he isn’t wasting the moment. These espicable raids expose the Chinese Communist Party for the cowardly dictators they are.

Hong Kong Democracy Council

We strongly condemn the arrests of 52 pro-democracy politicians who ran in the primaries last July that drew 600,000+ Hong Kongers. They have been charged with ‘subversion to the state’. Make no mistake-this is what authoritarian regimes and dictators do.

Democrat primary election
Photo: Studio Incendo.

Exiled activist and former lawmaker Nathan Law

In response to Hong Kong’s political crackdown, I urge the European Parliament to halt the EU-China investment deal and EU to sanction China and Hong Kong officials who are responsible [for] the arrests.

Activist Joey Siu

The 50 people arrested this morning are the most vocal pro-democracy voices left in Hong Kong. However, as they are arrested under the national security law, whether bail will be granted to them remains unknown. Looking forward to response from Team Joe Biden and the EU.

US Senator Rick Scott

Pro-democracy politicians are being arrested for speaking up for freedom and democracy. When will Beijing stop? They will find any excuse to arrest and silence those who yearn for their basic human rights.

Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch

The Chinese government has decided to mark 2021 with sweeping arrests of over 50 prominent pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, removing the remaining veneer of democracy in the city. Beijing once again has failed to learn from its mistakes in Hong Kong: that repression generates resistance, and that millions of Hong Kong people will persist in their struggle for their right to vote and run for office in a democratically elected government.

UK activist Luke de Pulford

Winning an election is subversion of the state… A reminder that we signed a treaty promising to protect Hong Kong from stuff like this. Where are those promises now?

Australian government

The Australian Government is concerned by reports that more than 50 pro-democracy lawmakers and other pro-democracy figures have been arrested in Hong Kong… under the national security law.

Our Consulate-General in Hong Kong is monitoring these developments closely.

Australia has consistently expressed concern that the National Security Law is eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy, democratic principles and rule of law.

Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International

This shocking crackdown on Hong Kong’s political opposition… is the starkest demonstration yet of how the national security law has been weaponized to punish anyone who dares to challenge the establishment.

Charging dozens of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists with ‘subversion’, just because they held their own informal primary contest, is a blatant attack on their rights to peaceful expression and association. People have a legitimate right to take part in public affairs. Political opposition should not be silenced just because the authorities don’t like it.

Secretary for Security John Lee

The plot was to cause mutual destruction… if successful, this ‘ten step mutual destruction plan,’ would have resulted in serious damage to society as a whole, that is why police action today is necessary.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Elizabeth Quat

The goal of the [democratic primaries] were to paralyse the government, to paralyse the Legislative Council, to the detriment of the whole of Hong Kong society. We know that this was [the democrats’] plan…

Today’s developments were crucial for the future of Hong Kong and have sent a very strong message to the international community: we need this security law to protect the best interests of Hongkongers.”

New People’s Party

The ‘primary elections’ which the pan-dems organized on 11 and 12 July are not provided in Hong Kong’s laws. If the purpose was… to organize extra-legal elections as part of the “ten steps” toward “burning together” or “undermining the organs of power” of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, [Benny] Tai and other organizers and participants could be guilty of committing an offence…

New People’s Party notes that no charges have been preferred at this stage. In accordance with common law principles, the prosecution would have to prove criminal intent on the part of those arrested and corroborative evidence would need to be adduced. Those arrested would have access to channels for legal representation, an open and transparent trial and appellate system under Hong Kong’s laws.

Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu

The mass arrest in Hong Kong comes as a deep shock to those who treasure freedom. In Taiwan we strongly condemn the act and will continue speaking out for the rights of the democracy advocates. The free world must unite against authoritarianism: No more room for ambiguity!

Hong Kong Democracy Council’s Samuel Chu

The city-wide purge in Hong Kong continues. In the largest single day of arrests yet since the implementation of the national security law, the Chinese Communist Party and Hong Kong authorities sought to root out the whole of the pro-democracy political establishment and movement.

I have no doubt that their arrests were also intended as a warning to the more than 610,000 Hongkongers who voted in the primary…Every elected official in the free world should speak out and condemn this tactic of jailing political opponents and using the democratic institutions of election and voting as the basis of political persecution.”

China Liaison Office

Without national security, there would be no long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. We firmly support the Hong Kong police’s strict enforcement of the law, and the separation of suspected lawbreakers who strategically organize or implement paralysis of the government from the general people who were misled to vote in the so-called ‘primary elections.’

Civil Human Rights Front

The Civil Human Rights Front strongly condemns the police for interpreting the law out of context, creating large-scale arrests, intending to create white terror, and intending to damage the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to vote and the right to be elected. We ask the SAR government to immediately release all political prisoners and stop the indiscriminate arrest and the violation of human rights in Hong Kong. Five demands are indispensable.

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang

China used to promise Hong Kong that “one country, two systems” would not be changed for 50 years… But now it has transformed to this terrifying situation, that even people pursuing the most basic democracy and freedom would be arrested and jailed.

We hope that China would respect Hong Kong, and stick to their promise. They should not maliciously oppress the pursuit of universal values of democracy and freedom, they should not use terrifying means that would only make the people feel more revolted, and make the world denounce China even more.

Last British governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten

Taking advantage of the political and pandemic distractions around the world, the Chinese Communist Party has further turned the screw in Hong Kong. It is now clearly to be regarded as illegal to support democracy. Apparently Hong Kong citizens are to be forced to love Beijing’s Communists, or else. Liberal democracies around the world must continue to speak out against this brutal destruction of a free society as well as about the ethnic genocide in Xinjiang

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.