Also arrested was an American citizen, lawyer John Clancey, the first known foreigner to be arrested under the national security law, UCA News reported. Clancey was the treasurer for the organization that coordinated the democratic primaries, HKW reported.
Benny Tai, a Christian pro-democracy organizer who also helped with primaries, also faced arrest. Police also reportedly raided the home of Joshua Wong, a student activist who was previously arrested and has already been charged.
Hong Kong’s National Security Law went into effect July 1, 2020, imposed directly by Beijing. It has been criticized as being overly broad on its definitions of terrorism, sedition, and foriegn collusion.
Under the law, a person who is convicted of the aforementioned crimes will receive a minimum of 10 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence.
American politicians including the prospective secretary of state under the incoming Biden administration have condemned the police’s actions. The US Consulate in Hong Kong would not comment on the arrests, according to CNN.
Hong Kong is a “special administrative region” of China, meaning it has its own government but remains under Chinese control. It was a British colony until 1997, when it was returned to China under a “one country, two systems” principle, which allowed for its own legislature and economic system.
Hong Kong’s openness to the outside world, and transparency in business and banking regulation, in contrast to mainland China, has made it a center of global business, banking, and finance.
Millions of citizens of Hong Kong, including many Catholics, have in recent years participated in large-scale pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which came to a head during summer 2019.
At that time, the protestors successfully rebuffed the Hong Kong legislature’s efforts last year to pass a bill that would have allowed mainland China to extradite alleged criminals from Hong Kong.
However, with the passage of the new security laws, the Chinese government seized more power to suppress the protests in Hong Kong, which it sees as a direct challenge to its power.
Similar security rules have been proposed before; in 2003, the communist government attempted to use Hong Kong’s own legislative and executive councils to pass the anti-sedition measures, but massive protests led lawmakers to abandon the proposal.
Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, previously downplayed religious freedom concerns about the law.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
In June 2020, Cardinal Tong told a diocesan publication that he “personally believe that the National Security Law will have no effect on religious freedom, because Article 32 of the Basic Law guarantees that we have freedom of religion, and we can also openly preach and hold religious ceremonies, and participate in religious activities.”
In recent months, the Diocese of Hong Kong has issued directives to Catholic schools on “fostering the correct values on national identity” and respecting Chinese national symbols including the flag and national anthem. It has also blocked a Catholic pro-democracy ad campaign and prayer that was set to run in local newspapers.
The last large crackdown in Hong Kong occurred in August 2020, when several prominent democracy activists were arrested and charged, including Agnes Chow, a 23-year-old Catholic democracy activist. Chow has been outspoken in her support for civil rights in the former British colony.
In November, three of the pro-democracy activists, including Joshua Wong and Chow, pled guilty on charges related to their roles in an “illegal assembly” in 2019. The next month, they were each sentenced to months in prison, with the possibility that they will face further charges.
Also among those arrested in August was Jimmy Lai, a Catholic media executive who has supported the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for the past 30 years. A band of nearly 200 police officers arrested Lai Aug. 10, along with at least nine others connected to Apple Daily, the newspaper Lai founded in 1995.
Following those arrests, Cardinal Tong wrote to local clergy, warning them against mentioning politics in their homilies, according to Apple Daily.