Opposition lawmakers arrested in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities arrested seven prominent opposition politicians Nov. 1, and an eighth the following day. The charges arise from an incident during a Legislative Council meeting in May. The politicians arrested are Wu Chi-wai, Andrew Wan, Helena Wong, Fernando Cheung, and Ted Hui, all pro-democracy lawmakers, in addition to Kwok Wing-kin, chairman of the Labour Party, and former lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan. All eight have been released on bail. Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, denounced the arrests as an attempt to silence the opposition. The arrests do not appear to be tied to the widely condemned National Security Law that went into affect in June.

Back in May, a clash broke out in the legislature chamber over control of a House Committee meeting. During this incident, a pro-Beijing politician dragged Ray Chan to the ground, who suffered a slipped disk as a result. Thus far, no pro-establishment lawmakers have been arrested over the incident. As such, the new arrests have been widely condemned as political. The police have denied any political motive.

In recent years, the number of opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong's legislature has increased. During debates over a proposal that would permit extradition to mainland China, sessions occasionally turned chaotic.

The new arrests are claimed by the opposition to be political and in line with actions taken against protestors and opposition lawmakers over the past several years. According to the agreement by which the UK handed control of Hong Kong back to China, Hong Kong is supposed to maintain its autonomy until 2047. The National Security Law and crackdown on protestors and opposition politicians are seen as intended to bring about the integration of Hong Kong into the mainland Chinese political system before 2047.

From Jurist, Nov. 3. Used with permission.

Opposition lawmakers purged from Hong Kong LegCo

Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers announced that they are resigning en masse following a move to disqualify four of their fellow dissident legislators. The 15 lawmakers announced the move in a news conference Nov. 11, hours after the Hong Kong government said it was disqualifying the four legislators—Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung.

The disqualifications came after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing passed a resolution stating that those who support Hong Kong's independence or refuse to acknowledge China's sovereignty over the city, appeal to foreign forces to interfere with the city's affairs, or endanger national security, will lose their eligibility to serve on the Legislative Council. (HKFP, AP)

Hong Kong court sentences student activist

The West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong sentenced pro-independence leader Tony Chung to four months of imprisonment for insulting the Chinese flag during a protest in May 2019.

Chung, a former leader of the now-defunct pro-independence group Studentlocalism, was arrested outside the US consulate for his alleged involvement with the group. In October, Chung was charged with secession, sedition and money laundering under the national security law adopted by China’s legislative body in June. That case is scheduled to be heard on Jan. 7. (Jurist)

More opposition lawmakers arrested in Hong Kong

At least 52 Hong Kong lawmakers and activists were arrested on Jan. 6 for alleged violations of the new national security law. The opposition figures were arrested over their organizational affiliation and participation in the primaries for the postponed 2020 Legislative Council election. (HKFP)

Demand HSBC unfreeze accounts of Hong Kong activist

A group of more than 50 lawmakers representing 16 legislatures around the world called on HSBC Holdings chairman Mark Tucker to unfreeze Hong King activist Ted Hui's accounts. Ted Hui is a former lawmaker from Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp. In December, after announcing he was seeking asylum status in the UK, he said that he no longer had access to his Hong Kong bank account. Hui also currently faces criminal charges in Hong Kong related to previous democracy protests. (Jurist)

Protest at Hong Kong court after pro-democracy figures charged

About 1,000 people gathered outside a Hong Kong court where 47 pro-democracy candidates, campaigners and activists faced charges of conspiracy to commit subversion under the National Security Law. The group is accused of organizing and participating in an unofficial primary poll last July aimed at selecting the strongest candidates for a legislative council election that the government later postponed, citing the coronavirus. Authorities said the informal poll was part of a plan to "overthrow" the government. (The Guardian)

Hong Kong court grants bail to 15 opposition figures

Hong Kong's West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court granted bail March 4 to 15 of the 47 opposition figures charged with subversion under the National Security Law after organizing and participating in an unofficial primary poll last July. A challenge from the prosecutors, however, meant that all 15 were kept in custody. In a "surprise u-turn," four of the defendants were released on March 5 after prosecutors revoked their challenge to the court’s bail decision.

The defendants were among the 53 opposition figures arrested in dawn raids on Jan. 6. Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said of the raids:

This shocking crackdown on Hong Kong's political opposition–sweeping up candidates, activists and pollsters alike–is the starkest demonstration yet of how the national security law has been weaponized to punish anyone who dares to challenge the establishment. This ruthless legislation gives the Beijing and Hong Kong authorities free rein to crush any dissenting views and puts all government critics at risk of imprisonment.

Police announced on Feb. 28 that charges of “conspiracy to commit subversion" had been laid against 47 of those arrested. After a four-day bail hearing, at the outcome of which bail was granted to only 15, prosecutors immediately lodged an appeal, forcing all 47 defendants to be remanded in custody. (Jurist)

China proposes overhaul of Hong Kong electoral system

The National People's Congress in Beijing unveiled a proposed overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system on Friday. The proposed structural changes would involve re-drafting Hong-Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, consolidating China’s “overall jurisdiction” over Hong Kong. Under the new proposal, Hong Kong will have 90 legislative seats instead of 70. The additional 20 seats would be decided by the Beijing-appointed Electoral Committee. Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng stated that the change aims to ensure that "patriots" will hold power in Hong Kong and consolidate China's "overall jurisdiction" over the territory. The territory's political opposition are saying the change effectively means the end of democracy in Hong Kong, and a betrayal of their demand for a system based on "universal suffrage." (Jurist)

China approves overhaul of Hong Kong electoral system

The Chinese National People’s Congress approved March 11 a "decision" bill to dramatically reform Hong Kong’s electoral system, strengthening Beijing’s control over Hong Kong's elections. The bill passed with near-unanimous support, with 2,895 votes in support, none in opposition, and one abstention. (Jurist)

Hong Kong court releases three more opposition figures

Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance on March 13 dismissed prosecutors' bail appeals with respect to three defendants charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, in what is the largest case to have been brought under the region’s national security law to date.

Of the 47 opposition figures charged on Feb. 28, eight have now been released on bail. Four were released on March 5 after prosecutors revoked their challenge to the lower court’s bail decision. Another was released on March 11 after the High Court dismissed prosecutors' appeal. A number of defendants have also had their bail revoked. Former opposition lawmakers Jeremy Tam Man-ho and Kwok Ka-ki are among those to have been remanded in custody after Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping overturned the lower court's decision on March 13 and revoked their bail.

The 47 defendants are among 53 opposition figures arrested in early January for their involvement in the organization of an unofficial primary election in July. The arrests attracted severe criticism from rights groups at the time, with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling them "the latest in a series of detentions related to the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly, in Hong Kong." The ongoing court case continues to be the subject of much media and diplomatic scrutiny. Special attendance arrangements have had to be put in place at the High Court in order to cope with "excessive demand for seats" at the hearings. (Jurist)

Beijing unanimously approves Hong Kong election overhaul

China's top legislative body has approved major changes to Hong Kong's electoral system, with the 167 members present all voting in favor of the overhaul. The move reduces the number of seats in the legislature which are democratically elected by the public, and introduces a vetting committee to pre-approve potential candidates.

Beijing loyalist Tam Yiu-chung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment & Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)– the territory's sole delegate to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC)—said March 30 that members unanimously approved the amendments to Annex I and II of the Basic Law to revamp the city’s elections. (HKFP)