Democrats arrested over their participation in last year’s primaries for the now-postponed Legislative Council election could be bailed out as early as Thursday, according to local media citing sources.

NowTV cited sources saying that 50 people arrested on Wednesday morning could be bailed out on Thursday, while American lawyer John Clancey received bail at midnight. Former lawmaker Au Nok-hin was bailed out on Wednesday as he was under coronavirus quarantine at the time of his arrest.

democrats pro democracy 35+ legco legislative council primary election 2020 september au nok hin andrew chiu benny tai
Photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

iCable News reported that the group would not be charged at the moment, and that two more jailed pro-democracy activists – Joshua Wong and “Fast Beat” Tam Tak-chi – were arrested by the national security office on Thursday morning.

Wong has been serving a 13.5-month sentence for organising and inciting an unauthorised assembly, and Tam has been detained since September last year as he faces multiple charges relating to speech.

Including Wong and Tam, a total of 55 people have been arrested for alleged violations of the national security law since Wednesday. Hong Kong police have accused them of subversion for trying to use strategic voting to secure a legislative majority, with an ultimate goal of shutting down the government.

The democratic camp’s primaries last July aimed to narrow the final list of pro-democracy candidates to run in the official, now-postponed legislative polls. Organisers of the primaries said over 610,000 Hongkongers cast their ballots throughout the two-day vote.

‘Obvious intention’

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) said that the intention of the primary election organised by the democrats was “obvious” and an important step in Benny Tai’s “ten steps to mutual destruction” timeline.

Tam Yiu-chung.
Tam Yiu-chung. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The pro-Beijing figure said on Commercial Radio on Thursday that even if the democrats did not use any violence, the whole process of planning to paralyse the government would be considered unlawful, and hence a violation article 22 of the national security law. Article 22 outlaws subversion of state power.

Tai’s timeline detailed steps from winning a majority at the Legislative Council election and vetoing the government budget, to ousting the chief executive and dissolving the legislature under an existing legal mechanism.

Executive Councillor Ronny Tong said on another radio show that the primaries in themselves might not be illegal, but it would be considered as criminal if the vote was part of an unlawful plot.

Tong added that some democrats planning to veto the government budget – regardless of the bill’s content – could be in violation of the national security law for seriously interfering with the operations of the Legislative Council or the administration.

Responding to the police accusation that the organisers used “unlawful means,” pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien questioned on Facebook whether the democrats’ methods were illegal, even if their ultimate aims were. He added that the police should further explain themselves as – if the case cannot stand up in court – it would be another blow to the administration’s governing credibility.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.