More than 100 charged under Hong Kong's national security law amid ongoing crackdown

Elections for the city's leader are 'meaningless,' as the winner will be dictated by Beijing, an analyst says.
By Cheryl Tung and Jojo Man
More than 100 charged under Hong Kong's national security law amid ongoing crackdown Hong Kong's Electoral Affairs Commission announces guidelines for election of the city's next chief executive in a Jan. 27, 2022 photo.

Hong Kong's national security police arrested 160 people during 2021 under a draconian law that launched a citywide crackdown on political opposition and public dissent, charging more than 100 of them, Hong Kong's chief of police said on Thursday.

And the crackdown will continue this year, with a focus on "anti-terrorism," police commissioner Raymond Siu told a news briefing.

"We have now gotten public order back to stability, but there are still a small number of anti-China and anti-Hong Kong rioters who have gone underground," Siu said.

"Police will continue to take the initiative to launch investigations based on intelligence," he said.

He dismissed concerns that the national security raid that led to the closure of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper had damaged press freedom.

"Press freedom is guaranteed under the Basic Law, but it is not absolute; it is based on legal responsibilities and obligations," Siu said.

"Many of the people making noises about a political crackdown on the media are sitting in the same boat [as the pro-democracy outlets that have been denounced in pro-Beijing media]," Siu said. "Young people are getting innocently embroiled in all of that."

Police have arrested more than 10,270 people in connection with the 2019 protest movement, more than 4,000 of whom are students, and 1,754 are under 18, of whom 496 have been charged, Siu said.

Siu accused protesters and pro-democracy activists of "harming young people and destroying many families."

Electing a new chief executive

His warnings of an ongoing crackdown came as the city started the process to select the new chief executive under tightened electoral rules designed to ensure that only "patriots" approved by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) can run in elections or hold public office.

Candidates must garner more than 750 votes, more than the 689 won by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying in 2012, to win, and nominations are limited to one per member of the 1,500-member Election Committee.

A poll must be held even if there is only one validly nominated candidate, and the nomination period has been shortened to two weeks, Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Barnabas Fung told a news briefing.

"We ensure that the election is conducted openly, fairly and honestly. It's legal [to have a shorter, 14-day nomination period], so we don't think there's anything wrong with it," he said.

Incumbent Carrie Lam has so far avoided commenting on whether her name will be on the slate.

"I haven't thought about it; I am having to fight the pandemic on a daily basis, so haven't thought about anything else much," she told reporters on Thursday.

Opinion pollster Chung Kim-wah said the elections is really there for show, a question of "going through the motions."

"There used to be small number of people on the Election Committee, but now that it's been revised, there's nobody," Chung told RFA. "Everyone understands that this election is pretty meaningless."

"It will be whoever Beijing wants it to be."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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