Those arrested this week were the participants and organizers of the primary elections for the legislative council originally scheduled in September 2020 but postponed by the Hong Kong government. The government absurdly claims that, since the aim of the primary was to gain the majority in the council, the pro-democracy camp would then veto the budget and government’s bills, obstructing the government’s operations and thereby constituting a subversive act. What was once a constitutional power and right exercised by legislators is now a crime, with a maximum penalty of lifelong imprisonment.
The arrests reflect how the scope of political persecution has inflated. The government claimed that the national security law only targets radical and violent protesters, but the law has turned out to be stricter and more suppressive. One of those arrested was Jeffrey Andrews, the first person of color to become a social worker in Hong Kong. He did not advocate any sabotage of “national security.” When he was running as a primary candidate in the Kowloon West district, his principal policy platform was racial harmony and dialogue with the government. Yet his mere involvement in the primary led to an arrest warrant.