Deputy executive director of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) Chung Kim-Wah has said that police raided the PORI office in Wong Chuk Hang on Wednesday. The search was conducted in the presence of PORI executive director Robert Chung – neither of the men were arrested.

Chung Kim-Wah told HKFP that officers called him on Wednesday to request that he visit a police station on Thursday morning to assist an unspecified investigation. He said he was told the visit was not for an arrest.

PORI deputy executive director Chung Kim-Wah. Photo: Stand News.

At least 52 Hong Kong democrats were arrested on Wednesday morning for alleged violations of the national security law, allegedly over their organisation and participation in the primaries for the now-postponed 2020 Legislative Council Election last year. PORI designed and set up the website and apps used to carry out the poll for the election.

“Several days after the election, we destroyed all the [personal] information; we have physically crushed all the hard disks with information inside. Nobody who participated in the primary should be afraid of any information leak,” Chung said.

Former pro-democracy lawmakers and activists arrested Wednesday morning over security charges. L to R: Wu Chi-wai, Lester Shum, Gwyneth Ho, Alvin Yeung, James To, Kwok Ka-ki, Lam Cheuk-ting, Eddie Chu, Ventus Lau, Bennie Tai, Raymong Chan, Leung Kwok-hung.

The arrests were reportedly made based on alleged “subversion” for organising a primary election within the pro-democracy camp. “I don’t think the primary election is going to in any way endanger the country,” Chung said. “Any parties could make use of a legitimate platform to resolve their conflict.”

“Even when some people said if they were elected, they were going to vote out the budget, I think not all people participating in that primary agreed with this point; some people refused to side with that,” Chung said. “That was not the objective of the movement.”

Under Article 22 of the national security law, it is an offence to seriously interfere with, disrupt, or undermine the performance of duties and functions of the government. 

File Photo: Studio Incendo.

The PORI office was raided by police last July 10, the day before the primary election. Chung said there was no personal information stored on the office devices, apart from barcodes for premises used as polling stations.

Asked if property owners should worry about being implicated in the case, Chung said: “If the government wants to scare people away, anything is possible under the current situation. Nobody is safe.”

Activist Ventus Lau was arrested from his home as police round up over 50 pro-democracy politicians over their organisation and participation in the primaries for the postponed 2020 Legislative Council Election last year. Photo: Emilia Wong via Instagram.

“I am angry about that,” Chung said in response to Wednesday’s mass arrests. “I don’t think this is going to solve any problem the government and the society is facing, because it will stir up further damage to the reputation and credibility of the government. It is not going to gain back the trust of the people for a long, long time. That’s the problem.”

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Correction 14.20: A previous version of this article stated that PORI chief Robert Chung had been arrested. A staffer has confirmed with HKFP that he was not arrested during a police visit on Wednesday.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.