January 8th Analysis: Mass Arrests in Hong Kong

On the surface, the international community witnessed the arrest of over 50 pro-democracy activists, candidates, and organizers of the grassroots election primaries in Hong Kong. Over 1000 national security officers were mobilized to carry out the arrests and searches across Hong Kong. Joshua Wong (imprisoned) and Tam Tak-Chi (in detention) were arrested. While no one was formally charged (yet), some have already been released on bail. The story continues to unfold.

Unlike how the mainstream media and public perception, this is not just another political crackdown. To date, most of the vocal pro-democracy leaders have been arrested, charged, detained, jailed, or are in-exile. Hong Kong’s opposition voices are disappearing from the city’s frontlines.

Hong Kongers have observed increased control from the government and extensive corrosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, especially after the NSL was rolled out by the Chinese government. Textbooks and curriculums revised, media self-censorship, persecution of journalists, intimidation of “yellow businesses” that are openly pro-democracy. Carrie Lam has even declared that there is no separation of powers. There have been various arrests made under the national security law in Hong Kong (NSL), but nothing on this scale.

This is the beginning of the end of Hong Kong society as a whole.

This cohort was arrested for allegedly violating the NSL by organizing and participating in the democratic primaries. By pursuing them under NSL charges, which have its own enforcement and judicial systems, the Hong Kong and Chinese government is effectively bypassing the city’s (semi) independent judicial system. In one swift move, the regime is able to undermine the political and judicial systems in Hong Kong.

We have already witnessed the wide and arbitrary application of the NSL to silence political dissidents. The NSL is utilized as a political tool for the Hong Kong and central government to legitimize their suppression. Every time the NSL is used, it becomes easier to normalize the corrosive effects of Beijing’s behaviours.

The democratic primary was a significant milestone for the Hong Kong democratic movement — a grassroots organized election that mobilized over 600,000 voters. It was the first time that democrats in Hong Kong were able to facilitate a collaborated event that would maximize the democrats’ chances in the general election. The primaries echoed the decentralized and diverse communities in Hong Kong, drawing in talented candidates who are community leaders on labour, feminists, disabilities, racial justice issues. This round of mass arrests was especially dreadful, as its fear and uncertainty had spread far beyond the political sector.

The persecution of democratic primaries is also a strong message for Hong Kong and the international community: there will be no reminiscent of democratic processes in Hong Kong.

The eradication of opposition figures is not going to be the end of Beijing’s plan. Activists are concerned that the NSL office will obtain personal information of the 600,000 voters, who may face persecution that may not be obvious to outside observers (ie. getting fired from a job, unlawful surveillance, suspicious suicides, etc).

Beijing has timed this wave of attack perfectly, the international community is occupied with the news of a fascist terror attack unfolding in Washington DC. The world is not paying attention to the crackdowns in Hong Kong and in mainland China, which is exactly why we must continue to keep a close eye on what continues to unfold.

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Causally written to organize my internal thoughts about what has been unfolding in Hong Kong.

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Cherie Wong 王卓妍

Cherie Wong 王卓妍

Settler. Third-Culture Kid. Non-Partisan Politico. Intersectional Feminist. 自由閪. she/her. Executive Director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong