In Dramatic Sweep, Police In Hong Kong Arrest Dozens Of Opposition Figures The action, which falls under a strict new Beijing-imposed national security law imposed on Hong Kong, comes in response to an unauthorized, independent primary held in July.
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In Dramatic Sweep, Police In Hong Kong Arrest Dozens Of Opposition Figures

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In Dramatic Sweep, Police In Hong Kong Arrest Dozens Of Opposition Figures

In Dramatic Sweep, Police In Hong Kong Arrest Dozens Of Opposition Figures

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Today, we're learning another way that China is using a national security law that it imposed last year on Hong Kong. China promised that law would be used in a way that preserved Hong Kong's limited autonomy. But today, police used the law to arrest more than 50 activists and lawmakers. Their alleged crime was participating in an independent election primary. NPR's Emily Feng reports.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: All across Hong Kong in the predawn hours, dozens of activists and lawmakers woke up to scenes like this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NG KIN-WAI: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: These are Hong Kong police officers outside lawmaker Ng Kin-wai's door earlier today. In Ng's case, he lets the police in. They arrest him under a sweeping new national security law imposed last summer.

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UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: (Non-English language spoken).

KIN-WAI: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: (Non-English language spoken).

FENG: The police tell the lawmaker he subverted state power by participating in a primary to, quote, "force Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam to resign." The police are referring to a primary election opposition politicians held in July. Michael Davis, a legal scholar who teaches in Hong Kong, explains the opposition wanted to find the most popular candidates to run for Hong Kong's 70-person legislature. Historically, that legislature is pro-Beijing.

MICHAEL DAVIS: The goal was to get 35 seats and then have the power to block whatever the government's agenda is. Now, the government's claiming, well, this is some kind of a violation, offense against the government and national security.

FENG: Six-hundred thousand Hong Kong residents came out and voted in July's primary despite threats from pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong. Beijing, which controls Hong Kong, is sending a clear message.

DAVIS: A primary in this kind of plan is now being turned into a crime where the sentence, the minimum sentence, is three years. And the maximum is life in prison.

FENG: The arrests target a wide range of people involved in the primary, including 10 former lawmakers. Benny Tai, a prominent academic who first came up with the idea of the primary, was taken. A U.S. citizen, lawyer John Clancey, was also arrested. He's the treasurer for a political party that helped organize the primary, which officials say is subversive. Joey Siu, a Hong Kong student leader, says this is a complete roundup of the region's remaining opposition.

JOEY SIU: So the 50 activists arrested this morning are very, very important and vocal voices in Hong Kong right now.

FENG: The opposition says their ability to participate in Hong Kong politics is now illegal.

SAMUEL CHU: Essentially, what the arrests today means is that if you want to win an election, you are subverting the state's power.

FENG: This is Samuel Chu, a Hong Kong democracy activist now living in the U.S.

CHU: There were 600,000 Hong Kongers that voted in the primaries. So we're not talking about sort of this little gathering that a few people attended. We're talking about a public event.

FENG: This means anyone who was ever tangentially involved with Hong Kong's beleaguered opposition is in danger, says Tommy Cheung. He was a young leader in 2014's umbrella revolution protests in Hong Kong and is now a local politician.

TOMMY CHEUNG: You know, the national security law is powerful law in Hong Kong. No one would say they would not be arrested anymore.

FENG: No one can say they won't be arrested, meaning expect more arrests.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.

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