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Joshua Wong, one of Hong Kong's most high-profile democracy activists, who is already serving a 13-and-a-half-month jail sentence for illegal assembly, was arrested again on Thursday on suspicion of violating the city’s controversial national security law.
The news was relayed on Mr Wong’s Twitter account which stated that he was “further arrested under [National Security Law] today. WITHOUT legal representative this morning. He was taken to Laichikok Reception center to take a statement.”
The tweet added that it was not known where the investigation would lead and that he was returned to the ShekPik Prison, a facility on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island known to incarcerate medium to long term prisoners.
The rearrest of Mr Wong came after more than 1,000 police officers detained 53 prominent figures - including a US citizen - in dawn raids on Wednesday on charges of "subversion", a new national security crime that carries up to life in prison.
By 10pm local time, 28 people had been bailed out, including American lawyer John Clancey, ex-lawmaker Eddie Chu and district councillor Lester Shum. Other figures such as Benny Tai, Claudia Mo and Alvin Yeung were still waiting in detention.
It was the biggest crackdown since China last year imposed a security law that imposes severe sentences for vaguely defined crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces
Opponents say the law aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony after months of anti-government protests in 2019 shook the Asian financial hub and at times turned violent.
“The sweeping arrests ... show that the regime is unrelenting in its efforts to persecute the democratic activists,” said opposition politician Fernando Cheung, adding that Hong Kong was taking advantage of the West being preoccupied with the pandemic.
“It’s a clear signal to the new Biden administration that China will not let up in its efforts to eradicate the opposition in Hong Kong and that it has determined to seize complete control.”
Wednesday’s arrests were related to an unofficial poll to choose opposition candidates for an election last year, which the authorities said was part of a “subversive” plan to “overthrow” the government.
They referred to an unofficial, non-binding primary in July, during which more than 600,000 people voted for candidates to run for a seat in the Legislative Council, the city’s parliamentary body.
Mr Wong, who won the primary vote, has been repeatedly targeted for his role in promoting democracy and human rights in Hong Kong. He was also among 12 opposition candidates disqualified from running in the legislative election, which has since been postponed with the government citing the coronavirus.
Washington on Thursday said it may sanction those involved in the mass arrest in Hong Kong and will send the US ambassador to the United Nations to visit Taiwan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, drawing anger and the threat of retaliation from Beijing.