Reporters take pictures and video of a police vehicle driving inside a station where it is believed members of Hong Kong pro-independence group, arrested by the national security unit, are held in Hong Kong, China, July 29, 2020. (Reuters)
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HONG KONG – Hong Kong police have arrested four people aged 16-21 for suspected offences under the city’s new national security law, the first such detentions outside of street protests since the legislation took effect a month ago.
In a press conference shortly before midnight on Wednesday, a police spokesman said the three men and a woman, all students, were suspected of being involved in an online group that pledged to use every means to fight for an independent Hong Kong.
“We arrested for ... subversions and for the organising and also the inciting (of) secession,” said Li Kwai-wah, police superintendent at the national security department.
“They wanted to unite all the independent groups in Hong Kong for the view to promote the independence of Hong Kong.”
China considers Hong Kong to be an “inalienable” part of the country, so calls for independence are anathema to Beijing’s Communist Party leaders.
Police said some mobile phones, computers and documents were seized in the operation.
Beijing imposed the contentious legislation on its freest city just before midnight on June 30, punishing what it broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Activists in Hong Kong scrambled to shut or rebrand social media accounts that could fall foul of the new security law before it was imposed. Police said the four were suspected of posting content that violated the legislation in July.
Human Rights Watch condemned the arrests and urged governments to impose targeted sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese government officials responsible for the new law.
“The gross misuse of this draconian law makes clear that the aim is to silence dissent, not protect national security,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said.
The law has been condemned by some Western governments, business leaders and human rights groups who say it represents the latest move by Beijing to tighten its grip over the former British colony.
Beijing says the law is crucial to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent anti-government protests that rocked the city over the past year. (Reuters)