More than 50 pro-democracy figures were arrested under the national security law on Wednesday, marking the biggest crackdown on the city’s opposition movement since the passing of the controversial legislation.
A total of 53 activists—including ex-lawmakers and district councilors—were apprehended for organizing and running in last July’s election primaries, held to narrow the pool of candidates for the later-canceled Legislative Council vote.
Police said about 1,000 officers were deployed for the operation, searching a total of 72 places between them.
Addressing reporters in the afternoon, Secretary for Security John Lee said those arrested are detained on suspected charges of subversion under the national security law.
Lee said the pan-democrats conspired to “paralyze” the Hong Kong government, referring to their “35+” goal of winning at least half of the 70 seats in the legislative elections.
Their aim, he said, was to “create a situation in which the Chief Executive has to resign, and the government stop functioning.”
The security minister said the police operation does not target the 600,000 Hongkongers who voted in the primaries.
In a press conference denouncing the clampdown, Chairperson of the Democratic Party Lo Kin-hei said the government is “antagonizing” its citizens.
“When Hongkongers use different ways to express their views, the government chooses not to listen, but to use different methods, channels and laws to take revenge on the politicians who receive popular support,” Lo said.
Earlier in the day, officers arrived at the offices of media outlets, including Stand News, to issue warrants obliging editors to hand over paperwork to facilitate an investigation related to the security law.
Police also raided the home of activist Joshua Wong, who is currently serving a jail sentence for his role in the 2019 protests. Wong was among the candidates who ran in the primary elections.
Friends manning his Twitter account said the search was “for allegedly violating the national security law,” although it is unclear if Wong has been arrested.