All but one of 53 Hong Kong opposition activists arrested for national security breaches were released on bail Friday without charge, police said.

Most of those arrested had been released since Thursday following the mass arrest Wednesday, when the suspects, including scholars and former lawmakers, were apprehended for plotting to overthrow the government under the sweeping anti-subversion law.

The 52 were granted police bail on conditions that included paying a cash bond and agreeing not to leave Hong Kong.

Wu Chi-wai, former chairman of the Democratic Party, was not granted bail for failing to hand over his British passport as part of a bail application in a separate trial.

Two other men, prominent activist Joshua Wong and radical Tam Tak-chi, were also arrested by police over the same subversion allegations. Wong was incarcerated after being convicted of hosting a protest while Tam has been remanded in custody as he awaits trial on sedition charges.

“Hong Kong has entered a chilly winter, the wind is strong and cold,” law scholar Benny Tai, who police say was the mastermind of a plot to topple the government by trying to help the opposition camp win a majority of seats in the legislature and veto a budget bill, told reporters as he emerged from a police station close to midnight.

“But I believe many Hong Kong people will use their own way to continue moving on against the wind,” he said.

Lam Cheuk-ting, the Democratic Party vice chairman who was also among those arrested, called the mass arrest political persecution.

“Nowadays, in Hong Kong, whether someone will be prosecuted or not (does) not depend on the evidence, it is only (a) political decision. I am sure they may charge some of us sooner or later whether they have sufficient evidence or not,” Lam told reporters.

“The true motive … is very simple, the regime tries to make Hong Kong people silent, they want to create a chilling effect, they want us to bow,” he added.

The National Security Law, imposed by Beijing on June 30, outlaws acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. It carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.