Police in Hong Kong arrested 14 pro-democracy figures on Saturday, together with Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, rights lawyer Albert Ho and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, for “illegal assembly” in reference to mass road protests final 12 months.

Martin Lee is taken into account the grandfather of the Hong Kong democracy motion, whereas Lai owns the Apple Daily, the most important professional democracy media group within the metropolis.

The group had been arrested in a coordinated raid on Saturday, simply days after Beijing dismissed a clause within the metropolis’s Basic Law proscribing Chinese authorities departments from interfering within the metropolis’s each day life.

The U.Ok.-based rights group Hong Kong Watch stated the arrests had been “politically motivated.”

“The politically motivated arrests of 14 of the most prominent democracy campaigners in Hong Kong … represents a concerted effort by the Chinese Communist Party to use the world’s focus on the COVID-19 pandemic to strangle dissent in the city,” the group stated in a press release on Saturday.

It stated the group of distinguished activists and former pro-democracy lawmakers had been arrested underneath the town’s Public Order Ordinance, which permits police to explain public protests as “unlawful assemblies” at will, after which arrest individuals for collaborating in them.

The observe has persistently been described by the United Nations as a transparent breach of human rights, it stated.

Hong Kong police superintendent Lam Wing-ho confirmed that 14 individuals aged between 24 and 81 had been arrested on expenses of organizing and collaborating in “unlawful assemblies” on Aug. 18 and Oct. 1 and 20 final 12 months, however declined to call any of the arrestees.

‘Now I’ve lastly turn out to be a defendant.’

Martin Lee, who was launched on bail on Saturday, stated he had no regrets.

“Over the months and years, I’ve felt dangerous to see so many excellent kids being arrested and prosecuted, however I used to be not charged,” Lee told journalists. “Now I’ve lastly turn out to be a defendant.”

“I’m proud to have the possibility to stroll our democracy highway with Hong Kong’s wonderful younger individuals,” he said.

The arrestees stand accused of organizing a peaceful march on Aug. 18, 2019 against plans by Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam to allow extradition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China that saw 1.7 million people take to the city’s streets.

Pro-democracy figures Yeung Sum, Sin Chung-kai, Lee Cheuk-yan, long-time social activist Leung Kwok-hung, known as “Long Hair,” former lawmakers Au Nok-hin and Cyd Ho, march organizer Figo Chan and rights activists Raphael Wong, Avery Ng and Richard Tsoi were also arrested, along with barrister Margaret Ng.

Some charges also related to rallies held on Oct. 1 and Oct. 20, 2019.

Democratic lawmaker Claudia Mo said the government is trying “to introduce a reign of terror in Hong Kong.”

“They are doing no matter they’ll to attempt to silence, to take down, the native opposition,” Mo told RTHK.

Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said the authorities are exacting political revenge on the protest movement while the rest of the world is focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Hong Kong authorities is making mass arrests at a time when lawmakers … are tied up with epidemic prevention work and its funding package deal,” Yeung said.

“Everyone else in Hong Kong is combating the coronavirus pandemic, and they’re making delayed revenge arrests? We see what you are doing,” he stated.

Another step in direction of ‘burying handover phrases

Dozens of supporters and members of the Confederation of Trade Unions (CTU), Labour Party and League of Social Democrats protested outdoors Cheung Sha Wan police station, the place a few of the arrestees had been taken, authorities broadcaster RTHK reported.

The U.Ok. Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated it was watching the circumstances intently.

“The right to peaceful protest is fundamental to Hong Kong’s way of life,” it stated in a press release, citing the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and the town’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, as authorized safety for these rights.

“It is essential that any protests are conducted peacefully, and that the authorities avoid actions that inflame tensions,” it stated.

Lord Patten of Barnes, the final British governor of Hong Kong, stated China had taken one other step in direction of “burying” the phrases of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong.

“The arrest of some of the most distinguished leaders over decades of the campaign for democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong is an unprecedented assault on the values which have underpinned Hong Kong’s way of life for years,” Patten stated.

“This is not the rule of law. This is what authoritarian governments do,” he stated, including that Beijing was decided to “throttle Hong Kong.”

Former U.Ok. international secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind stated the arrests had been an “appalling attack” on the rule of legislation in Hong Kong.

“I know some of them personally and I know these individuals are not radicals or ‘rioters’, they are highly-respected internationally renowned establishment politicians known for their commitment to the rule of law and basic freedoms,” Rifkind stated.

Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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