(Bloomberg) — Hong Kong police said officers arrested four more people under the city’s Beijing-drafted national security law, amid increasing speculation that authorities would ask for China’s help to delay upcoming legislative elections.
The Hong Kong Police Force said it had arrested four suspects, including three males and one female aged 16 to 21, in connection with publishing content online in July inciting others to commit secession. “Police remind the public that the cyber world of the Internet is not a virtual space beyond the law,” it said.
Those arrested included former Studentlocalism convener Tony Chung Hon-lam, the organization said on Twitter. The people were detained at police stations in northwestern Hong Kong and were denied bail, the group said.
Pro-democracy activists Sunny Cheung and Ventus Lau said on their Facebook pages that the arrests may be related to the “Initiative Independence Party,” which was set up by overseas members of Studentlocalism. The group, whose Facebook page now has more than 600 likes, declared it will “fight using any means possible in order to expel Chinese colonizers from our land.”
The arrests bring to 15 the number of Hong Kong residents taken in under the sweeping security law, which China imposed on the former British colony on June 30 after losing patience with the local government’s failure to pass similar legislation. Authorities have indicated that its broadly worded provisions against subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces could cover non-violent actions common in protests that rocked the city last year.
The arrests come amid growing speculation that Hong Kong’s government could seek to delay Legislative Council elections set for Sept. 6, when the city’s opposition hoped to demonstrate popular support against authorities. Top officials were mulling asking the National People’s Congress for authority to postpone the election for a year, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday, citing people it didn’t identify
The newspaper, which echoed similar reports in other outlets earlier this week, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam wanted Beijing’s support to prevent legal challenges in local courts. The NPC’s top legislative body on announced plans Wednesday to meet on Aug. 8-11, although no Hong Kong item was yet on the agenda.
Calls to delay the election have grown among pro-establishment figures amid a fresh coronavirus outbreak, with the city reporting 118 additional cases on Wednesday to bring its total to more than 3,000. Hong Kong’s government on Wednesday reiterated earlier statements that agencies were still preparing for the election and were communicating with health authorities to formulate plans.
The election would be Hong Kong’s first since China’s imposition of the security legislation, a move that raised the pro-democracy camp’s concerns it would be used to disqualify its candidates from September’s vote. Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. earlier this week voiced concern that the election be allowed to go ahead.
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