HONG KONG — Dozens of pro-democracy figures who have been rounded up and detained final month have been arrested once more on Sunday and charged with violating Hong Kong’s harsh new nationwide safety regulation, the newest 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 arrange an off-the-cuff election main final yr for Hong Kong’s pro-democratic political camp. They have been amongst 55 folks 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 mentioned that every of the 47 folks had been charged with a single rely of “conspiracy to commit subversion.” They embrace Benny Tai, a former College of Hong Kong regulation 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. Greater than 600,000 folks named their most well-liked selections to run for legislative workplace in September, typically favoring candidates carefully related to the mass antigovernment protests that convulsed the town in 2019.
Below Mr. Tai’s technique, the pro-democracy bloc might use a majority within the metropolis’s Legislative Council to dam the federal government’s finances, which underneath Hong Kong regulation might finally drive the chief govt, Carrie Lam, to step down.
However the authorities warned that underneath the safety regulation, which China imposed on the 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 have been in the end postponed by Mrs. Lam’s authorities, which cited pandemic restrictions. Professional-democracy activists mentioned the delay was extra probably an effort to stave off the defeat of pro-establishment candidates, who misplaced badly in neighborhood-level elections in 2019.
Final yr, the Legislative Council’s pro-democracy bloc resigned en masse after Beijing compelled 4 of its members out of workplace. This month, the Chinese language authorities signaled that it deliberate to vary Hong Kong’s electoral system to bar candidates seen as disloyal to China’s ruling Communist Get together. Whereas the main points 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 folks charged on Sunday had been ordered days prematurely 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 will not be creativeness in regards to the struggling, however hope and willpower past struggling.”
Whereas within the station, Mr. Chow was charged with subversion underneath the nationwide safety regulation, in accordance with his lawyer.
Lester Shum, who was a frontrunner of the 2014 pro-democracy protests often called the Umbrella Motion and took part within the main final yr, was additionally charged. He mentioned the street to the arrests had begun with the 2019 protests.
“We’ve got lengthy earlier than determined that we’d not bow to authoritarianism,” he mentioned. “I hope that everybody will carry this determination within the very troublesome days forward.”