Hong Kong police arrested a lawyer and 10 others on Thursday on suspicion of helping 12 Hong Kong activists escape the city, media reported.
The new wave of arrests comes a week after 55 activists were arrested in Hong Kong in the biggest move against the democracy movement since Beijing passed a new national security law to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous region last June.
The crackdown has heightened concerns that Beijing is gaining control of the city and breaking its promise that Hong Kong will maintain separate civil rights and political systems for 50 years since it was surrendered from Britain in 1997.
Police arrested eight men and three women, ages 18 to 72, for “assisting criminals,” according to the South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources. They were quoted as saying that previous investigations had shown that those arrested had not violated national security law.
The arrested are suspected of helping the 12 Hong Kong youths arrested by Chinese authorities on the mainland when they tried to sail to Taiwan last August. Some of the refugees were wanted in Hong Kong for crimes related to anti-government protests in 2019.
Police officers guard the district council office and lawyer Daniel Wong Kwok-tung on Thursday. Wong, a member of the city’s Democratic Party, is known for providing legal aid to hundreds of protesters arrested during anti-government protests in Hong Kong in 2019. (Vincent Yu / AP Photo)
The police did not immediately comment on the arrests.
District councilor and attorney Daniel Wong Kwok-tung posted on his Facebook page that national security officials had arrived at his home. He was later taken to his office where the police carried out a search.
Wong, a member of the Democratic Party, is known for supporting hundreds of activists arrested during the 2019 protests.
Last month, ten of those detained at sea were sentenced to prison terms in Shenzhen for illegally crossing the border. The sentences ranged from seven months to three years. The other two minors, who are minors, have been transferred to Hong Kong and may face charges in the city of fleeing further charges, authorities said.
Hong Kong has jailed several pro-democracy activists, including Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, for their involvement in anti-government protests in recent months. Others have been charged under national security law, including media tycoon and outspoken democracy advocate Jimmy Lai.
The Security Act criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers to interfere in the city’s affairs. Serious offenders could face life imprisonment.
Last week, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada issued a joint statement expressing “serious concern” about the arrests. They said, “It is clear that the national security law is being used to eliminate dissenting and conflicting political views.”