Authorities in Hong Kong have reportedly charged pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong with subversion under the new national security law.
News of the new charge was posted on Wong’s Facebook account Thursday. The 24-year-old activist is currently serving a 13-and-a-half month prison sentence for organizing an unauthorized protest in 2019.
It comes one day after at least 53 pro-democracy activists were arrested in Hong Kong in the biggest crackdown on opposition members in the semi-autonomous city since the law was approved by Beijing last July. Among those arrested in the pre-dawn raids included several members of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party who took part in an unofficial primary election last July to pick candidates to run in legislative elections initially scheduled for September. The balloting was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party said on its Facebook page that former lawmakers and activists Benny Tai, James To, Lester Shum and Lam Cheuk-ting were among those detained in the raids.
The Democratic Party candidates had hoped to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Council that would allow them to vote down proposed budgets and any legislation considered to be pro-Beijing.
Also arrested Wednesday was John Clancey, an American lawyer who works for the prominent Hong Kong law firm Ho, Tse, Wai and Partners that takes on human rights cases. He was arrested when police raided the firm’s offices.
A message posted on Joshua Wong’s Twitter account said Wong’s home was also raided in the sweep.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will consider further sanctions and restrictions “on any and all individuals and entities” involved in carrying out the arrests.
Hong Kong authorities have increasingly clamped down on the city’s pro-democracy forces since Beijing imposed the new national security law last July. Several pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en masse late last year after four of their colleagues were disqualified by the government, while several prominent activists have been arrested and jailed, including Wong and 73-year-old media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who was arrested last month on an initial charge of fraud, and has since been charged under the new law with “foreign collusion.”
Under the law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.
The new law was imposed by Beijing in response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the last half of last year, and is the cornerstone of its increasing grip on the city, which was granted an unusual amount of freedoms when Britain handed over control in 1997.