Two Hong Kong Lawmakers Among 16 Arrested Over 2019 Protests

Two Hong Kong Lawmakers Among 16 Arrested Over 2019
Protests 1

HONG KONG — Two Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers were among more than a dozen people arrested on Wednesday, in what appeared to be part of a growing crackdown by the police on the city’s political opposition.

The lawmakers, Lam Cheuk-ting and Ted Hui, who are members of the city’s Legislative Council, were arrested because of their presence at an antigovernment protest in the Tuen Mun district on July 6, 2019, the Democratic Party of Hong Kong said in a Facebook post.

A party representative said the lawmakers had been serving as mediators when the Tuen Mun protests, which began peacefully, took a violent turn.

Mr. Lam, a former anticorruption investigator, was also accused of rioting in connection with an attack, in which he, antigovernment protesters and other bystanders were set upon by a mob in the Yuen Long subway station on July 21 last year, the party said.

Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, said in a phone interview: “Lam Cheuk-ting has been turned from a plaintiff to a defendant, and Ted Hui has been arrested after carrying out the duties of a legislator. This is a completely unreasonable situation and should be condemned.”

The police said 16 people in all were detained, with 13 accused of taking part in a riot in Yuen Long last year. The others, including Mr. Lam, were arrested in connection with an encounter outside the Tuen Mun police station, when a group of people surrounded a man who was taking photos of protesters and forced him to delete the images from his phone. The police said they were detained on suspicion of “unlawful assembly,” “criminal damage,” “obstruction of justice” and “accessing electronic devices with dishonest intent.”

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Credit…Anthony Wallace/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The arrests came months after Beijing imposed a new security law in Hong Kong that pro-democracy activists fear would result in a loss of freedoms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

They also followed the biggest roundup of prominent opposition figures in recent memory. More than a dozen leading pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers in Hong Kong were arrested in April in connection with the protests that raged in the city last year.

The police also arrested and released the prominent pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai this month and raided the offices of his newspaper, Apple Daily, in a stark demonstration of what activists called China’s resolve to silence the opposition and bring the city to heel.

The authorities are also employing a digital dragnet to target opposition politicians, activists and media figures.

The Hong Kong government has barred 12 candidates, including moderate pro-democracy figures, from a legislative election that was postponed from September for a year.

City officials said the postponement had been made because of health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, but opposition lawmakers said it was intended to avoid a resounding defeat of pro-Beijing candidates. The pro-democracy camp announced last Thursday that it would conduct a poll to decide whether to stage a boycott or continue serving for the extended term.


Credit…Lam Cheuk-ting, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

During the attack, a group of men in white shirts entered the train station and struck unarmed commuters with wooden bats. Mr. Lam, 43, was quoted as saying in a New York Times video investigation that he had gone to the station to warn commuters about the dangerous surroundings, but was among those beaten and injured inside a train carriage.

In video footage shared by a representative of the Democratic Party, police officers could be seen outside Mr. Lam’s door Wednesday morning, and Mr. Lam could be heard asking why he was being arrested.

“The crime of rioting,” an officer says in the video.

“Me, taking part in a riot? The July 21 riot?” Mr. Lam exclaims. “Hong Kong has become so absurd now.”

A representative of the Democratic Party also shared a letter sent this month to the lawmaker from the commissioner of police that commended Mr. Lam for his response to the attacks.

“You’ve fulfilled your civic responsibility by reporting this serious crime to the police,” the letter, postmarked Aug. 3, said.

Mr. Hui, 38, frequently served as a mediator in street protests that erupted in the past year, issuing warnings to the police over a loudspeaker and encouraging protesters to go home safely. He filed a lawsuit against a police officer in June over the 2019 shooting of a protester, but the case was blocked last week by Hong Kong’s secretary of justice.

A few days after filing the suit, Mr. Hui was detained on suspicion of unlawful assembly, an accusation he described as retaliatory.

Elaine Yu contributed reporting.

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