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Hong Kong Authorities Have ‘No Mercy’ as Cancer-Stricken Activist Arrested

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Hours before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics began Friday, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu was arrested by national security law police on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Local media reported Koo had planned a protest outside China’s liaison office — the bureau that represents the Chinese government in Hong Kong — to coincide with the opening of the Olympics ceremony. But in a dawn raid, Hong Kong police arrested Koo at his residence.

The 75-year-old, who is suffering from stage 4 cancer, had sent out a media invitation before Friday’s planned protest, where he criticized China for holding the event while there were “unjust” cases of imprisonment in Hong Kong. Koo also said authorities have abused the security law as part of their crackdown on opposition to government policies.

Ted Hui, a former pro-democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong now self-exiled in Australia, condemned the arrest.

FILE - Koo Sze-yiu sits outside West Kowloon court, Kowloon, Hong Kong, October 15, 2020 (Tommy Walker/VOA)

FILE – Koo Sze-yiu sits outside West Kowloon court, Kowloon, Hong Kong, October 15, 2020 (Tommy Walker/VOA)

“It is very sad he will probably end up in jail forever under the draconian law,” he told VOA. “Even to an old man with cancer, the Chinese Communist Party Hong Kong regime has no mercy. Koo is a well-known and respected figure, who has taught Hong Kongers what courage was like back in the early days.”

The Hong Kong Police Force released a statement confirming the arrest and added two other men and two women were also brought in as part of the investigation.

“After an in-depth investigation, the National Security Department of Hong Kong Police Force (NSD) arrested a 75-year-old man in Sham Shui Po today (February 4) for suspected of inciting subversion, contravening Article 22 and Article 23 of the Hong Kong National Security Law,” the statement said. “The arrestee is being detained for further enquiries. Two men and women aged between 59 and 76 were also brought back to station for investigation. Investigation is underway and further arrests may be made.

The four who were called in for investigation included activists Lui Yuk-lin and Chan Yee-Ming, as well as former Democratic Party member Virginia Fung and former Chinese Labour Party VP Chan King-Chung, according to local media outlets InMediaHK and HK101.

Koo, who has been imprisoned 11 times for his activism, would often carry a mock coffin to demonstrations aimed to depict the grave of Hong Kong. The activist’s previous sentence was a four-month prison term handed down in January 2021 for desecrating the Chinese national flag in 2019.

But Friday’s arrest means it’s the first time the activist has been charged under the national security law. It is still unclear whether Koo’s protest is the reason for the incitement of subversion charges.

Koo in recent years has often been seen in association with Hong Kong pro-democracy group the League of Social Democrats. The party’s members include activists Avery Ng and Leung Kwok-hung, who are both serving time in prison following their involvement in the city’s much-publicized anti-government demonstrations in recent years.

Since Beijing imposed Hong Kong’s national security law in June 2020, the legislation has been applied by authorities to crack down on dissidents in the city. Acts deemed subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion are illegal, and violations can carry sentences up to life imprisonment.

At least 162 people have been arrested under the national security law, with over 100 prosecuted, Hong Kong police Commissionr Raymond Siu said in January. Those arrested and charged under the security legislation include several pro-democracy lawmakers, activists and journalists.

Five people have been convicted and three have been sentenced to prison under the law, which has been presided over by judges handpicked by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Those sentenced include former waiter Leon Tong Ying-kit, 24, who received nine years in prison following his conviction for terrorism and secession in July. November saw pro-democracy demonstrator Ma Chun-man sentenced to nearly six years in prison for inciting secession, and pro-independence youth activist Tony Chung sentenced for secession and money laundering.

Eric Yan-ho Lai, an analyst of law and politics in Hong Kong and China, told VOA that if Koo’s arrest was because he had only planned the protest, it’s an unprecedented case under the security law.

“It is the first time the national security law is being used as a pre-emptive way to prohibit dissenting voices in Hong Kong. This arrest indicates that the government sees any small-scale peaceful protest could endanger national security, even if it has not yet occurred.”

Michael Mo, a former district councilor in Hong Kong and human rights advocate, told VOA that Koo is seen as a “true patriot” among fellow pro-democracy activists and politicians.

“His activism is all about upholding Chinese nationalism, while defying the Chinese Communist Party rule. Such rhetoric is common among his generation.”
Mo, now in Britain, said Koo’s arrest under the security law underlines the dramatic change in Hong Kong’s tolerance for controversial activism.

Hong Kong student activist Christina Chan tried to hold a Tibetan flag to protest during the 2009 Olympics equestrian event in Hong Kong. She was removed from the event with no further consequences.

Tibet is a remote mountainous territory but is governed as an autonomous region of China, where protests and uprisings have occurred for decades.

“Chan hasn’t been charged for any offense back then. Now Koo, who may [have] intend[ed] to bring his protest art, is arrested for inciting subversion,” said Mo.

“This arrest is a real irony to those who could still say people in Hong Kong could enjoy freedoms the same as before,” he added.

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