Eight pro-democracy activists were arrested in Hong Kong on Tuesday as authorities continue a crackdown on dissent under a new security law imposed by Beijing.
The eight, who include three former lawmakers, were detained for their role in a protest against the security law on July 1. They could face a maximum of five years in prison.
The ex-lawmakers who were arrested are Wu Chi-wai, the former chief of Hong Kong’s Democratic party, Eddie Chu and Leun Kwok Hung.
The arrests came shortly after the US sanctioned 14 top Chinese officials, all of them vice chairpersons of the National People’s Congress, over their role in disqualifying pro-democracy politicians from Hong Kong’s legislature last month.
China has reacted angrily to the US move, with its Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office calling it the product of “double standards” while voicing “strong indignation and condemnation.”
The Foreign Ministry was even more emphatic in its condemnation of the sanctions, calling their imposition “unwarranted and vile behavior.”
The national security law was imposed by China in Hong Kong on June 30 in a bid to crack down on dissent in the former British territory after months of mass protests last year.
The vaguely worded law is seen by critics as an attempt by Beijing to curb the rights to freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed to the territory when Britain handed it back to Chinese rule in 1997.
A number of activists have been recently arrested and some jailed under the law. Notably, leading dissident Joshua Wong and two other major figures in the activist scene were sent to prison last week over their involvement in a rally outside police headquarters in 2019.
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