Hong Kong police arrest over 50 opposition figures, including American lawyer, in…

U.S. citizen John Clancey was among those arrested in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

January 6, 2021, 10:50 AM

• 9 min read

HONG KONG — Dozens of Hong Kong opposition figures, including an American lawyer, were detained on subversion charges Wednesday in what activists see as a brazen attempt to clamp down on any remaining dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Hong Kong police confirmed to ABC News that around 1,000 officers were deployed Wednesday to arrest 53 people for an alleged act of subversion, searching 72 locations.

Steve Li Kwai-Wah, senior superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force’s national security unit, said six individuals were arrested for organizing the alleged act, while the other 47 were arrested for participating. Police also froze 1.6 million Hong Kong dollars ($206,000) in funds. Li said the group tried to use strategic voting to secure more than 35 seats in the Hong Kong Legislative Council, with the aim of vetoing the government’s budget, forcing the city’s leader to resign and shut down the government.

The wave of arrests marks the most significant roundup of pro-democracy figures under a controversial national security law, since China imposed the legislation in Hong Kong six months ago.

Most of the detainees were either running in or organizing an unofficial primary in July last year to select opposition candidates for September’s legislative election, which the Hong Kong government later announced it would postpone by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many were popular district councilors who swept the election in November 2019, as the city was in the throes of anti-government protests.

At the time of the July poll, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam had warned that it could constitute an act of subversion.

American human rights lawyer John Clancey was among those arrested Wednesday, making him the first known U.S. citizen to be detained under the Hong Kong national security law. Clancey works for the Hong Kong law firm Ho, Tse, Wai & Partners, which was seen in video circulated on social media being raided by police during Wednesday’s crackdown.

Clancey is also chairman of the Asian Human Rights Commission and treasurer of Power for Democracy, which was one of the organizers behind the unofficial July 2020 primary.

Dozens of those arrested updated their Facebook pages to confirm they had been detained on suspicion of “subversion of state,” including Claudia Mo, Leung Kwok-hung and Eddie Chu, as well as co-organizer of the unofficial primary, Benny Tai. Colleagues of prominent activist Joshua Wong, who co-founded the now-disbanded pro-democracy group Demosisto in 2016, said that his home was also searched on Wednesday.

One of the lesser-known detainees is Lee-Chi-yung, who was standing in last year’s election to make the city more accessible for wheelchair users. Lee was motivated by his late daughter’s struggle with a severe disability.

Under the Hong Kong national security law,

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