Nearly 100 people were yesterday arrested by Hong Kong police as riot officers swooped on democracy protesters opposed to the postponement of local elections.
Yesterday was meant to be voting day for the partially elected Hong Kong Legislative Council, one of the few instances where Hong Kongers are able to cast ballots.
However, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) suspended the polls for a year citing the COVID-19 outbreak, angering the pro-democracy opposition who had been hoping to capitalize on seething anti-government sentiment.
Hundreds of riot police flooded the district of Kowloon in a bid to thwart online calls for flash mob protests to mark the suspended vote.
Throughout the afternoon police were heckled by people shouting slogans such as: “Give me back my vote” and “Corrupt cops” as officers conducted multiple stop and searches, and ordered crowds to disperse.
In a Facebook statement, police said that at least 90 people were arrested by 5pm, mostly for unlawful assembly.
One woman was detained for chanting independence slogans under new national security legislation Beijing imposed on the territory, police added.
Live images showed that three prominent pro-democracy politicians — Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄), Figo Chan (陳皓桓) and Raphael Wong (黃浩銘) — were among those held.
The protests came hours after the police’s newly formed national security unit arrested Tam Tak-chi (譚得志), vice president of radical democratic party People Power, for “uttering seditious words.”
Tam, a former radio presenter known as “Fast Beat,” was arrested at his home in north east Hong Kong by police officers from the national security squad, although he was not detained under the new law, police said.
“The gentleman we arrested this morning was arrested for uttering seditious words under the Crimes Ordinance’s section 10,” Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah (李桂華) said, referring to legislation enacted in the British colonial era to clamp down anti-government expressions.
Li said Tam was held for using words that “brought into hatred and contempt of the government and raised discontent and disaffection among Hong Kong people” in speeches made across Hong Kong this summer.
Li said the national security police were leading the arrest because at the initial stage of investigation the force suspected Tam of committing “incitement to secession” under article 21 of the national security legislation.
“But after collection of evidence and consulting the Department of Justice, we decided that it is more suitable to use the Crimes Ordinance,” Li said.
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