On the 18th of April, the Hong Kong Police (HKP) arrested fifteen individuals. Among them were veteran pro-democracy politicians, barristers and even a media tycoon, resulting in the biggest police crackdown on the region’s pro-democracy movement since last year.
Within the group of arrested individuals were Martin Lee (Democratic Party founder), Margaret Ng (former politician and barrister) and Jimmy Lai (media tycoon). In total, one incumbent and nine former politicians had been arrested by HKP, amongst them being leading pro-democracy activists Yeung Sum and Lee Cheuk-yan.
On the same day, the HKP superintendent Lam Wing-ho informed local journalists that a group of individuals with ages between 24 and 81 had been arrested on charges of ‘unlawful assemblies’ from the previous year. Such charges were made on August 18th, October 1st and 20th. The days mentioned were days which experienced heightened amounts of protesting in the region. Alongside this, five of the arrested individuals had been arrested for the publication of an ‘unauthorised public meeting’ Lam had stated.
The HKP later that day confirmed for Hong Kong’s media that the incumbent legislator Leung Yin-chung was amongst those who had been arrested in the raids. Including Leung, all arrested individuals are due to appear in court on May 18th, while keeping the door open to the possibility of more arrests.
In response to such events, Claudia Mo (Democratic Legislator) had said that the region’s government and its police were now trying to “introduce a ring of terror in Hong Kong”. In addition to this, she also stated that “they are doing whatever they can to try to silence, to take down, the local opposition,”. This was made in direct reference to the upcoming elections within four months’ time in Hong Kong.
With this mass crackdown on pro-democracy officials and members, it has led to increased fears of China’s political pressure being exerted onto Hong Kong and its legal system. Many Chinese officials and Hong Kong governmental officials are going as far as to describe Hong Kong’s recent protests as being domestic terrorism. The use of such language has led to accusations of officials using this false threat of terrorism as a justification for further national security laws, which are demanded within Hong Kong’s Basic Law.
What this might show is that the coronavirus pandemic might just be the media’s excuse for Hong Kong to do what it wants while the global spotlight is on other matters. In addition to this, it might just show that Hong Kong’s incumbent pro-Beijing government are worried about the possibility that the pro-democracy minority might become a majority come September. What is for certain is that Hong Kong’s rocky relationship with China will persist for the foreseeable future, coronavirus or not.