“I want my right to vote.”
Nearly 300 peaceful activists were arrested on Sunday for unlawful assembly and other grounds, as they staged protests on what should have been election day for the territory’s legislature, which was delayed by a year by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam.
Lam announced on July 31st that she would be postponing the election due to concerns about the surge in COVID-19 cases. However many claim that the government merely wanted to reduce the number of seats the democratic opposition would obtain if voting occurred on schedule. The legislative council election would have been the first official vote held in Hong Kong since the passage of the draconian National Security Law on June 30th.
The protests were primarily held in Hong Kong’s Kowloon district on September 6th, where hundreds of people briefly marched and chanted pro-democracy slogans before nearly 2,000 officers were deployed to break up the protests.
Police used pepper spray and fired pepper balls while chasing crowds, cordoning off streets to stop and search suspected protesters. Undercover police officers, marching with activists, tackled several protesters and dragged them away. The 289 people arrested were accused of assaulting police officers, causing a public nuisance, and possessing drugs.
A 12-year-old girl not affiliated with the protests was chased and tackled by Hong Kong police officers while buying paint. In a statement following her arrest, the police claimed she had run “in a suspicious manner” and officers had used “minimum necessary force” to apprehend her.
These mass arrests, similar to the August 10th arrest of Jimmy Lai and Agnes Chow, are often used as a scare tactic to deter further protests. By evening, police closed in on the area containing most remaining activists and forced everyone to pass through a police line in order to leave.
Among those arrested were Figo Chan, Raphael Wong, and Leung Kwok-hung of the League of Social Democrats, who allegedly unfurled a banner criticizing the government and the postponement of the election. They were also accused of “leading more than 30 people to gather.”
Hong Kong activist Tam Tak-chi was also reportedly arrested on Sunday by Beijing’s National Security Unit on suspicion of uttering seditious words.
A protester told the Washington Post, “it’s very important that the world continues to pay attention to what’s happening in Hong Kong, that we don’t even have the right to vote or protest anymore.”
Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong said that “there will be a zero tolerance for violations of Hong Kong’s National Security Law,” claiming that a small group of “anti-China rioters” had started an “illegal demonstration.” The office praised Hong Kong’s police for enforcing the law and “maintaining stability,” alleging that they “will never allow Hong Kong to become chaotic again.”
This story is still developing. Raise the Voices will be releasing additional articles and profiles on arrested activists.