Hong Kong National Security Police on Thursday arrested 11 people in connection with the attempt by 12 activists to flee the city by speedboat in August 2019, including a prominent human rights lawyer and pro-democracy politician.
Democratic Party District Councilor and volunteer rights attorney Daniel Wong said police showed up at his home in Kowloon City around 6 a.m.
Live video footage of the arrest showed Wong shouting “Insist on democracy, insist on human rights and the rule of law! Don’t give up, Hongkongers!” as he was handcuffed and escorted into an unmarked car with marked police vans in the background.
Wong was then driven back to his district councilor’s office to help police conduct a search around noon.
Police confirmed that the National Security Division had arrested eight men and three women between the ages of 18 and 72 on suspicion of “aiding and abetting criminals”.
Wong, 72, has become a prominent pro bono advocate for protesters arrested during the 2019 protest movement and for his tireless advocacy for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
His last social media post before his arrest read: “Within the walls are the young faces of those who remained in Hong Kong but lost their freedom. Outside the wall, others are exiled, strangers in a strange land, not knowing when they can come home.”
“The darker things get, the more we must hold on!” he wrote.
Active, day and night
Former pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said Wong always comes to offer legal assistance to protesters at all times of the day.
“I would call him, and he would come right away, no matter how late it was,” Lam told RFA. “He was usually seen going back and forth between different parts of a police station, wearing shorts, sandals, with his hair long and holding a bottle of water.”
Wong had also driven Lam around town to support the arrested protesters, Lam said.
“A lawyer with many years of experience, he was happy to share this experience with young lawyers and he helped many families, bringing them a sense of calm and dealing with the police,” he said. “I have always been very impressed with his sense of justice.”
Wong also helped Hong Kongers start pro-protest businesses on the democratic island of Taiwan, and was a favorite target of media backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Hong Kong political commentator Sang Pu said Wong was aware of the danger of arrest, but wanted to stay in the city to help others.
“A lot of people asked him why he didn’t leave Hong Kong, and he always said it was to help people,” Sang said. “He touched a lot of people.
He said it was hard to see how Wong could be charged with violating national security, even under the draconian law imposed by the CCP on Hong Kong since July 1.
“It’s not really about what he actually did, though; they’re targeting him as a person,” Sang said.
Ten protesters sentenced
On December 31, 2020, a court in southern China’s Guangdong province handed prison terms of up to three years to 10 of the 12 Hong Kong protesters arrested on August 23 as they attempted to flee a national security crackdown in the city. , on charges related to the “illegal crossing of a border”.
Two detainees – Liu Tsz-man and Hoang Lam-fuk – have been returned to Hong Kong after authorities said they would not pursue charges against them because they were under 18 at the time of their detention.
Liu, now 18, was taken into custody after completing his quarantine and charged with conspiracy to commit arson for allegedly possessing raw materials to make Molotov cocktails during the movement 2019 protest, state broadcaster RTHK reported.
Hoang also faces charges of “flight” and “conspiracy to aid criminals”, he added.
The arrests came as a Hong Kong internet service provider confirmed it had blocked access to a website linked to the protest following a police order, the first confirmed withdrawal of a website under the National Security Act.
“We have disabled access to the website in accordance with the requirement issued under the National Security Law,” Hong Kong Broadband Network said in a statement.
HKChronicles, a website dedicated to publishing first-hand accounts of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, warned its users last week to be prepared for large-scale internet blocks, filters and censorship in the future. , in the first indication that China could export its Great Firewall to the city under a draconian national security law that came into force on July 1.
Reported by Man Hoi Yan and Lu Xi for RFA Cantonese and Mandarin services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.