Four Hong Kong students, members of a recently disbanded independence group, were arrested by police on Wednesday (July 29) under the controversial new national security law, the group and the security forces have learned. . These are the first arrests targeting public political figures since the entry into force of this law, imposed by Beijing on its semi-autonomous territory on June 30.

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The four arrested students – three men and a woman aged 16 to 21 – are suspected of“Organization and incitement to secession”, according to the police. “Our sources and our investigation show that the group recently announced on social networks the creation of an organization which advocates the independence of Hong Kong”Li Kwai-wah, an officer in the new national security unit created within the Hong Kong police, told reporters.

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“Silencing dissent”

In a statement, Student Localism, an independence group disbanded in June, said its former leader Tony Chung, 19, was among those arrested. Two other former members of the group have been identified by politicians and local media.

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Beijing-imposed national security law sanctions “Subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces”. It makes the pro-local democracy opposition fear a serious decline in freedoms in force in the former British colony of 7.5 million inhabitants, ceded to China in 1997.

Recent abuses “Of this draconian law make it clear that the goal is to silence dissent, not to protect national security”, responded Sophie Richardson, research director on China at Human Rights Watch, after the latest arrests.

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Illegal opinions

Details of the new law, which bypasses the local legislative council, were withheld until promulgation. Overnight, some opinions, notably those advocating independence or greater territorial autonomy, became illegal.

The first arrests that followed the promulgation of the law targeted people with independence flags.

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It was the Hong Kong police who carried out the arrests on Wednesday. The new law, however, allows for the first time Chinese security agents to intervene openly in the former British colony.

The World with AFP