China’s crackdown in Hong Kong escalated dramatically on Wednesday with police arresting 53 opposition figures in their largest operation since a draconian security law was imposed on the financial hub.
The sweep is the latest salvo in Beijing’s battle to stamp out dissent in the city after millions hit the streets in 2019 with huge and sometimes violent democracy protests.
Police confirmed 53 people – including a US citizen – were arrested for “subversion” in an early morning operation that involved about 1,000 officers.
The charges were sparked by an attempt by opposition groups last year to win a majority in the city’s partially-elected legislature. Hong Kong’s security chief John Lee described the arrests as “necessary” and aimed at a group of people who tried to “sink Hong Kong into an abyss” and “overthrow the government”.
Britain has criticised the arrests, accusing China of deceiving citizens about the true purpose of its security law. Foreign secretary Dominic Raab called the detentions “a grievous attack on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms”.
Germany also condemned the crackdown. Foreign minister Heiko Maas said, “China is deviating further from the commitments it made to Hong Kongers and the international community.