Many of the 55 democratic politicians or activists arrested in January under Hong Kong’s national security law have been told to report back to police on Sunday, five weeks earlier than scheduled, and some say they expect to be charged.
They said on Facebook they were told to report to police stations at 2pm on Sunday, following their arrest over opposition primary elections held last July and release on bail.
Of those held in January in a mass roundup, 53 were detained at their homes in raids which sparked widespread international criticism, while two were arrested while already in custody for other alleged offences.
Among those who received the call to report on Sunday are former lawmakers Claudia Mo, Au Nok-hin, Lam Cheuk-ting and Gary Fan and district councillors Henry Wong, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, Tat Cheng and Michael Pang.
It was not immediately clear whether every one of those arrested and bailed had been summoned to appear on Sunday, rather than on April 8 as previously stipulated, and police had no immediate comment.
Cheng and Fan said on Facebook they expect to be charged on Sunday. Lam, who recorded and published his conversation with a national security police officer, was told that there would be “a new investigation” into the case on Sunday.
The primaries were organised to select pro-democracy candidates for the Legislative Council election scheduled for September 2020. Authorities later postponed the poll for at least a year, citing the coronavirus outbreak.
The democrats were accused of attempting to paralyse the Hong Kong government by their “35+” plan, under which they would try to win a majority in the 70-member Legislative Council through strategic voting. If successful they would veto important government bills and force the chief executive to resign.
The national security law imposed by Beijing last June 30 provides for penalties of up to life imprisonment. Those charged under the legislation are subject to a stricter test when seeking bail than people charged with regular offences.
Zero tolerance for mass arrest
The mass arrest and other moves seen aimed at Hong Kong’s democrats have been widely criticised overseas.
The Japanese government said on Wednesday it “would not tolerate mass arrests” in Hong Kong in a written response to a member of parliament’s inquiry on the 53 democrats.
The statement said Hong Kong and Japan share close economic ties and exchanges of talent, and Hong Kong should remain a free and open system under “One country, two systems”, and develop steadily and democratically.
It said that after the implementation of the national security law, the Japanese government had deep concerns over whether Hong Kong respects fundamental values such as the freedom of speech and press freedom.
Tokyo added that it would make its stance and worries known to China, and work with the G7 and other countries to address Hong Kong issues.