Four members of defunct pro-democracy Party arrested in Hong Kong

Demosisto party members are introduced at a news conference in Hong Kong, April 10, 2016. [AP Photo]

Hong Kong police have arrested four members of the defunct pro-democracy party Demosisto on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces, a key violation of the city's national security law.

Those arrested were former Demosisto chairperson Ivan Lam, Li Kai-ching, William Liu and Arnold Chung, the South China Morning Post reported.

Police officers raided the office of shopping platform Mee, an online app that lists part of the "yellow economy" in Hong Kong, a network of businesses that supported the pro-democracy protests in 2019. The former Demosisto members launched the app, reports said.

Images of national security police confiscating boxes of evidence from an industrial unit in Hong Kong's Kwai Chung were posted online.

A source for the South China Morning Post said the four arrested were being accused of conspiring with shops that are part of the yellow economic circle to raise funds to support anti-China activities overseas.

Police statement

A police statement, without naming the reported suspects, confirmed that following an investigation, four men between the ages of 26 and 28 had been arrested for "conspiracy to collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security."

The four were suspected of "receiving funds from operating companies, social platforms and mobile applications to support people who have fled overseas and continue to engage in activities that endanger national security."

They also were accused of "repeatedly publishing posts with seditious intent on social media platforms" and advocating for Hong Kong's independence, the statement read.

The men were being detained amid further inquiries, but the investigation is continuing and further arrests haven't been ruled out.

Demosisto party

Demosisto was a political party formed in 2016 with the aim of gaining autonomy and self-determination for Hong Kong, and in the same year it won a seat in Hong Kong's Legislative Council elections. Its founding members included prominent activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Nathan Law.

The group disbanded more than three years ago on June 30, the same day Hong Kong's security law went into force.

Lam was sentenced to prison alongside Wong and Chow in December 2020 for their roles in the anti-government protests in 2019, but Lam was released in April 2021 after serving five months. Wong has been in prison ever since and is facing subversion charges under the national security law.

Bounty arrests

Law was one of eight self-exiled activists who were declared as being sought by Hong Kong's national security police on Monday. Anna Kwok, Finn Lau, Christopher Mung Siu-tat, Elmer Yuen, Ted Hui, Dennis Kwok, and Kevin Yam were the others on the wanted list.

Hong Kong's police superintendent Steve Li said the eight had violated the security law, specifically for collusion with foreign forces, secession and subversion. The police have placed a bounty of $127,635 on each of the fugitives.

But all the activists left Hong Kong in recent years and live either in the U.S., Britain or Australia. Li said the activists would remain on the wanted list, though if they remain overseas, there is little chance of them being arrested.

Hui, Yam, Lau and Anna Kwok all shrugged off the arrest warrants when speaking with VOA following the announcement.

Security law

Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 following anti-government protests in 2019. The law prohibits acts including secession, subversion and foreign collusion, and it carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

More than 250 people have been arrested on suspicion of violating the law and 79 people have been convicted of various offenses.

Beijing has always maintained that the law was enacted to stabilize the city and secure it from civil unrest.