HONG KONG—Police arrested dozens of pro-democracy politicians early Wednesday in a series of dawn raids that swept up many of the opposition’s most prominent figures, some of whom said they were accused of subversion under China’s national security law.
From about 6 a.m., police started making arrests at the homes of the politicians, according to social media accounts of some detained. The arrests were related to their participation in unofficial election primaries held last year by the democratic camp ahead of planned legislative elections, they said.
The operation is the biggest since the sweeping national security law was imposed six months ago, and activists said the arrests were the first related to alleged subversion which was made a serious crime under the legislation. The range and profile of the lawmakers arrested, comprising most of Hong Kong’s opposition, marks a dramatic escalation in efforts by authorities to crush opposition in the city, which was racked by monthslong antigovernment street protests in 2019.
Less than two weeks after the security law was imposed, on the weekend of July 11 and 12, the opposition camp took part in self-organized primaries in order to select preferred candidates for scheduled elections in September. The event was aimed at gaining a majority in the legislature, which participants said meant they would be able to block government legislation. Organizers said then that about 600,000 members of the public cast their votes.
Many of the politicians were told weeks later that their candidacies were invalid, with authorities citing concerns over their loyalty to the city and its constitution. Shortly after the disqualifications, the government postponed the elections by a year, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
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