Mass Arrests under Security Law in H.K. Aim to Crush Pro-democracy Activists

It must be said that this move not only stifles Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists but also eliminates them from society. Crackdowns that violate universal values, such as freedom of speech, and break an international promise are absolutely unacceptable.

Hong Kong police have made a mass arrest of 53 people, including former pro-democracy lawmakers of the Legislative Council, which is the parliament of Hong Kong, on suspicion of violating the national security law. It is reported that a primary election held by the pro-democracy camp prior to a parliamentary election scheduled for September last year constituted a crime of “subversion” of the national government under the national security law.

The pro-democracy activists’ goal of winning a majority in the parliamentary election, rejecting the budget and forcing the Hong Kong government’s top leader, the chief executive, to resign was seen as being “aimed at suspending government functions.” The arrests are tantamount to denying parliamentary activities.

Many of the arrested pro-democracy figures have been released on bail. However, it is highly likely that they will face trial and their political activities will be limited. The government apparently aims to completely eliminate the possibility of the pro-democracy camp gaining seats in the parliamentary election, which has been postponed until September this year.

Since it went into effect in June last year, the national security law has been criticized for leaving a lot of room for arbitrary application because of its ambiguous provisions, such as “subversion” and “collusion with a foreign country or with external elements” to endanger national security.

The number of people arrested for violating the law last year — a total of about 40 — was exceeded in just one day. The escalation of the law’s application is exactly what the international community feared. It is far from the “restrictive application” that the Hong Kong government initially emphasized.

The number of foreign firms operating in Hong Kong fell last year for the first time in 11 years. It can be said that the wave of “Chinafication” in Hong Kong has been causing the flight of foreign capital. More and more people are wanting to move to Britain, and there is a possibility that up to 320,000 people will move to Britain over the coming five years.

The status of Hong Kong, which developed as an international financial center based on the “one country, two systems” model agreed on by Britain and China, is apparently facing a crisis of survival.

China has proclaimed that “Hong Kong must be governed by patriots,” rejecting criticism from the international community as “interference in domestic affairs.” But China should be aware that it is violating an international agreement that allows Hong Kong to maintain its status quo for 50 years after its return to China.

Those arrested this time include an American lawyer who supports the pro-democracy camp, which demonstrates that even foreigners are easily targeted by the national security law.

The United States is intensifying its criticism against China, saying that it was an attack on those who claim universal rights.

Japan cannot dismiss the situation as a “fire on the other side of the river.” Together with other countries with shared values, it must clearly express its grave concern over China and continue to warn over its unilateral actions.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 13, 2021.