Two prominent Hong Kong opposition lawmakers were among more than a dozen people arrested yesterday in a police operation focused on last year’s huge protests, part of a widening crackdown against the territory’s democracy camp.
Legislators Lam Cheuk-ting (林卓廷) and Ted Hui were detained after early morning raids on their homes, adding to the mounting prosecutions targeting Beijing’s critics in the territory.
Both are minority Democratic Party lawmakers in the Legislative Council and vocal critics of Beijing, as well as Hong Kong’s government and the police.
“This is out-and-out political persecution,” James To Kun Sun (涂謹申), a veteran lawyer and fellow party member, told reporters.
Police said that the arrests were related to two anti-government rallies last year — one on July 6 and the other on July 21, the latter on a day that saw a notorious attack by government loyalists on protesters in the town of Yuen Long.
The brazen assault by more than 100 mostly white-clad men armed with wooden and metal poles helped fuel months of increasingly violent protests.
Police have charged eight people over the attack, some with links to organized-crime gangs.
However, they are now describing the clash as being between “evenly matched rivals.”
“In today’s operation, we arrested people who are believed to belong to the other side,” Senior Superintendent Chan Tin-chu (陳天柱) told reporters.
Lam, who was beaten bloody in the assault, was among 13 arrested yesterday on suspicion of rioting, Chan said.
The group also included a senior bank official and a social worker, he added.
The Yuen Long attack, which was streamed live, was a defining moment of last year’s protests.
Democracy supporters, including Lam and Hui, have accused police of deliberately arriving late to the scene, allowing the attackers to leave, and botching the subsequent investigation — allegations the force has denied.
Pro-Beijing figures hailed the latest police action.
“Justice may be late, but never absent,” said Legislator Junius Ho (何君堯), who was seen shaking hands with some of the white-clad men in Yuen Long before the attack.
Lo has denied prior knowledge of the assault and said he was simply greeting patriotic locals.
Yesterday, he said he has “clean hands that need no washing.”
Antony Dapiran, a Hong Kong lawyer who has written books about the territory’s protests, described the police recasting of the Yuen long attack as “gaslighting of the highest order.”
“HK govt and police [are] trying to rewrite the narrative of one of the most documented and live-streamed events of last year,” he wrote on Twitter.
Beijing on June 30 imposed a sweeping National Security Law, tightening Chinese Communist Party control over the territory and ending the legal firewall between the mainland and Hong Kong.
Certain political views — such as advocating independence or greater autonomy for Hong Kong — became illegal overnight, and arrests have followed.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) began the year vowing to heal divisions.
However, police have since arrested dozens of prominent pro-democracy figures on a slew of charges related to the rallies, with the courts now filled with hearings and trials.
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