All but one of the former opposition legislators and activists detained during a mass raid on suspicion of subversion under the national security law have been released on bail, Hong Kong police confirmed Friday.
Former Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai, one of a group of 53 arrested early Wednesday in an operation which sparked international condemnation, remains in custody. Activists Joshua Wong and Tam Tak-chi, who are already in custody, were arrested separately under the law in a prison and a detention centre respectively.
Critics have described the swoop by almost 1,000 police as an attempt to stifle democratic voices in the city. Those detained are accused over their involvement in primary elections organised by the opposition last July to select candidates for an upcoming Legislative Council election, which was later postponed for a year.
Authorities say the campaigning included threats to paralyse the government and force the resignation of the chief executive by vetoing the budget should the opposition camp gain a majority in LegCo.
Of the 52 democrats released on Thursday night, most had to pay a cash bail of HK$30,000 and hand in their travel documents. Some had their phones and computers confiscated, including former lawmakers Claudia Mo, Gary Fan, and incumbent District Councillor Ben Chung.
They must report back to police in early February. None have yet been charged.
“Hong Kong has entered into a bitter winter, the wind blowing is strong and cold. But I believe that many Hong Kong people will still use their own ways to battle the wind,” said Benny Tai, one of the organisers of the primaries, after he left Ma On Shan Police Station.
“Why can’t we go back to a real ‘one country, two systems’, instead of deviating far from civilised values, and persecuting people who are fighting for democracy peacefully with groundless political accusations?” said former Democratic Party lawmaker James To.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and numerous other leaders have criticised the mass round-up, the largest since Beijing imposed the security law on Hong Kong last June. Offences under the law are punishable by up to life imprisonment.
Wu Chi-wai was detained in a Correctional Services facility on Thursday over his alleged violation of bail conditions linked to a separate case of unauthorised assembly. He is accused of failing to surrender a British-issued passport and his bail was formally revoked on Friday.
Wong is serving a 13.5-month prison sentence for organising and inciting an unauthorised assembly, and Tam has been detained since September while awaiting trial on charges of sedition.
The national security law criminalises subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which are broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure.