- Jan. 6, 2021Updated 10:25 a.m. ET
“HONG KONG — They descended before dawn, 1,000 police officers fanning out across Hong Kong to the homes and offices of opposition lawmakers, activists and lawyers. They whisked many off in police cars, often without telling relatives or friends where they were being taken.
Within a few hours on Wednesday, the Hong Kong police had arrested 53 people, searched 76 places and frozen $200,000 of assets in connection with an informal primary for the pro-democracy camp — all under the auspices of Beijing’s new national security law. In one swoop, the authorities rounded up not only some of the most aggressive critics of the Hong Kong government but also little-known figures who had campaigned on far less political issues, in one of the most forceful shows of power in the Chinese Communist Party’s continuing crackdown on the city.
The message was clear: Beijing is in charge.
The mass arrests signaled that the central Chinese government, which once wielded its power over Hong Kong with a degree of discretion, is increasingly determined to openly impose its will on the city.In the months since the law took effect, Beijing and the Beijing-backed Hong Kong leadership have moved quickly to stamp out even the smallest hint of opposition in the Chinese territory, where the streets once surged with huge anti-government protests. And they have shattered any pretense of democracy in Hong Kong’s political system.
The security law, which was enacted in June, has been the most visible tool of the crackdown. With the seeming blessing of Beijing, the Hong Kong authorities have been given the power to interpret the law as they see fit, taking advantage of vague parameters that criminalize anything the government considers to be acts of terrorism, secession, subversion or collusion with foreign powers.”