TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The first foreigner arrested under Hong Kong’s repressive national security law was freed on bail Thursday (Jan. 7) pending further inquiries.
John Clancey, an American lawyer at the firm Ho Tse Wai & Partners, was arrested at work on Wednesday (Jan. 6) by around 10 plainclothes officers, according to reports. Though he was released without charge on Thursday, Clancey is believed to have surrendered his passport.
The lawyer’s arrest was part of the Hong Kong government's sweep of activists, academics, lawmakers, and students. Over 1,000 police officers rounded up 53 people for alleged violations of the national security law.
The law criminalizes “subversion, succession, foreign interference, and terrorist acts,” which can be interpreted as loosely as a protest at a metro station.
The activists were arrested for their involvement in an unofficial electoral primary held last June to field pro-democracy candidates for Hong Kong’s legislature. Over 600,000 Hongkongers turned out to vote in the contest.
Authorities in the territory have said they viewed the primary as an attempt to subvert state power, citing an Apple Daily op-ed published by former law professor and activist Benny Tai (戴耀廷), who was also arrested Wednesday, titled “10 steps to mutual destruction.” In the piece, Tai outlined a plan to force Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (林鄭月娥) resignation among other political outcomes.
Clancey is believed to have been detained for his role as treasurer of Power for Democracy — a group that helped organize the primary. In a video taken during his arrest, he can be heard saying, “We need to work for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.”
Having practiced in Hong Kong since 1997, the American lawyer is also the chairman of the Asia Human Rights Commission and the Asian Legal Resource Center. One of the founding partners of his law firm, Albert Ho (何俊仁), is the former chairman of the Hong Kong Democratic Party.