Press release January 6, 2021
Hong Kong: Freedom House Condemns Mass Arrest of Prodemocracy Activists, Politicians
The unprecedented crackdown reveals the intention of the Chinese Communist Party to suppress any effort by Hong Kongers to salvage democratic representation.
In response to the arrest on January 6, 2021, of more than 50 prodemocracy activists and politicians in Hong Kong on charges of violating the National Security Law, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“These arrests mark the most brazen attack to date on the rights and freedoms of Hong Kongers,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “Hong Kong and Chinese authorities are using an authoritarian law to conduct a mass arrest under farcical charges, and to demand privileged information from journalists. This unprecedented crackdown showcases blatant disregard for the rights Hong Kongers are supposed to enjoy under law, and reveals the intention of the Chinese Communist Party to suppress any effort by Hong Kongers to salvage democratic representation. Primaries have long taken place in Hong Kong, with those held last July drawing hundreds of thousands of voters. Their effective criminalization is the worst yet in a string of actions by the government that realize fears voiced when the National Security Law was adopted.”
On January 6, at least 53 activists and politicians were arrested for allegedly committing “subversion” under the National Security Law, a set of rules enacted in July 2020 that criminalize a wide range of political speech and activism. The arrests appear to be linked to a primary held in July 2020 to select candidates who would represent the prodemocracy camp in the Legislative Council election, which was subsequently postponed.
Detained individuals include former lawmakers, organizers of the primary, activists, and academics. Police also arrested and raided the office of an American lawyer who worked with a nongovernmental organization that organized the primary, and additionally visited the head of a research institute who helped conduct polling for the primary. If convicted of “subversion,” the accused face sentences of up to life imprisonment. In addition to the arrests, police visited the offices of at least three news outlets, serving warrants that demand they turn over documents related to the July 2020 primary.
Hong Kong is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020. China is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2020. Freedom House is also following the deteriorating conditions in Hong Kong and their global implications in its monthly China Media Bulletin.