HONG KONG — Dozens of pro-democracy figures who have been rounded up and detained last month have been arrested once more on Sunday and charged with violating Hong Kong’s harsh new nationwide safety regulation, the most recent blow to the dwindling hopes for democracy within the territory.
The 47 politicians and activists charged on Sunday are accused of breaking the safety regulation by serving to to prepare a casual election main final 12 months for Hong Kong’s pro-democratic political camp. They have been amongst 55 people arrested in a January sweep and launched on bail whereas the police continued their investigation.
Earlier than Sunday, solely a handful of individuals had been formally charged with violating the safety regulation, although about 100 have been arrested on suspicion of doing so. These convicted of violating the regulation could be sentenced to life in jail.
The police stated that every of the 47 individuals had been charged with a single depend of “conspiracy to commit subversion.” They embrace Benny Tai, a former University of Hong Kong law professor who drafted an election technique for the pro-democracy camp that included the casual main.
The first, held in July, appeared little completely different from others held in democracies around the globe. More than 600,000 people named their preferred choices to run for legislative workplace in September, typically favoring candidates carefully related to the mass antigovernment protests that convulsed town in 2019.
Below Mr. Tai’s technique, the pro-democracy bloc may use a majority within the metropolis’s Legislative Council to dam the federal government’s funds, which below Hong Kong regulation may ultimately drive the chief govt, Carrie Lam, to step down.
However the authorities warned that below the safety regulation, which China imposed on town in late June, such a plan was probably an act of subversion. Amongst different issues, the regulation bans interfering with, disrupting or undermining the capabilities of the Chinese language and Hong Kong governments.
The September elections were ultimately postponed by Mrs. Lam’s authorities, which cited pandemic restrictions. Professional-democracy activists stated the delay was extra probably an effort to stave off the defeat of pro-establishment candidates, who lost badly in neighborhood-level elections in 2019.
Final 12 months, the Legislative Council’s pro-democracy bloc resigned en masse after Beijing forced four of its members out of workplace. This month, the Chinese language authorities signaled that it deliberate to alter Hong Kong’s electoral system to bar candidates seen as disloyal to China’s ruling Communist Celebration. Whereas the small print of these modifications have but to be finalized, they’re anticipated to ban all however probably the most conciliatory opposition figures from taking workplace.
The 47 individuals charged on Sunday had been ordered days upfront to report back to the police, and since then, many had been saying farewell to family members and shopping for jail requirements, like metal-free glasses and sneakers with out shoelaces.
Owen Chow, a 24-year-old activist, posted a photograph on-line Sunday of a Buddhist chant newly tattooed onto his proper arm. “It appears to be like just like the struggling will proceed indefinitely,” he wrote. “What we’d like shouldn’t be creativeness in regards to the struggling, however hope and willpower past struggling.”
Whereas within the station, Mr. Chow was charged with subversion below the nationwide safety regulation, in accordance with his lawyer.
Lester Shum, who was a frontrunner of the 2014 pro-democracy protests referred to as the Umbrella Motion and took part within the main final 12 months, was additionally charged. He stated the highway to the arrests had begun with the 2019 protests.
“Now we have lengthy earlier than determined that we’d not bow to authoritarianism,” he stated. “I hope that everybody will carry this determination within the very tough days forward.”