HONG KONG, CHINA — Hong Kong police arrested 10 people on Thursday under the city’s national security law, accusing them of providing financial support to overseas dissident groups pushing for sanctions against the Chinese finance hub.
Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 after huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests the year before. Critics say the law has curtailed political freedoms and quashed dissent.
Authorities said on Thursday four men and six women, aged between 26 and 43, were arrested for “conspiracy to collusion with a foreign country or external elements” — an offence under the security law that can carry a sentence of up to life in prison.
“Police investigation revealed that the arrested persons were suspected of conspiracy to collude with the ‘612 Humanitarian Relief Fund’,” the police statement said, referring to a now-defunct fund that helped pay legal and medical costs for people arrested during the 2019 protests.
The 10 people were suspected of receiving donations “from various overseas organisations to support people who have fled overseas or organisations which called for sanctions against Hong Kong”, it said.
Police also cited “inciting riot” as grounds for Thursday’s arrests and did not rule out more.
The fund disbanded in October 2021 after national security police demanded it hand over details that included information about its donors and beneficiaries.
Authorities have accused the group in recent years of fomenting dissent among jailed protesters and scrutinised its ties with Hong Kong activists who have fled overseas.
Five of the fund’s trustees, including the elderly cardinal Joseph Zen, were arrested in May 2022 for foreign collusion.
The five trustees and the fund’s secretary were convicted and fined in November for the less serious crime of failing to properly register the fund.
They have since filed an appeal against their convictions but no hearing date has been set.
By last month, 260 people have been arrested under the national security law, with 79 of them convicted or awaiting sentencing in Hong Kong.