A pro-democracy group involved in selecting candidates for upcoming local elections was raided by police just hours after it published a poll showing that over 60% of residents no longer believe Hong Kong is a free city.
The offices of the Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) in Wong Chuk Hang were raided on Friday night, hours before pro-democracy primaries are scheduled to take place and which PORI is helping to organize.
A live stream of the incident showed police officers entering the offices with a warrant and after searching the office and seizing computers. No arrests were made.
However, the organization was charged with the dishonest use of a computer, a piece of legislation that was originally conceived to apply to cyber fraud and hacking but has been broadened by the Hong Kong government to become a catchall.
It carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
The police told reporters that the raid was sparked by a complaint from a member of the public who claimed PORI was the source of a recent leak of personal information relating to police officers, Stand New reported.
But many pro-democracy activists on social media linked the raid to the draconian national security law that came into force last week and which gives the police sweeping new powers to crack down on those who undermine Beijing’s rule.
Hours before the raid, PORI had published a survey on people’s opinions of Hong Kong since the new law came into force. The results show that 61% of residents believe Hong Kong is no longer a free city, while just 32% believe it still is.
The raid also comes 24-hours after Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister warned that the upcoming primary election may violate the new national security law. “Those who have organized, planned, or participated in the primary election should be wary and avoid carelessly violating the law,” Erick Tsang said.
PORI is set to be a co-organizer of this weekend’s primaries which are designed to select pro-democracy candidates to run in September’s legislative election.
Following the raid, PORI's deputy head emphasizes that the pro-democracy primary will still go ahead as planned and the police raid should not affect PORI's technical ability to carry out the vote.
Beijing has repeatedly warned about the threat posed by pro-democracy candidates winning over 50% of the seats in September’s elections, a warning given added impetus when pro-democracy candidates won over 80% of seats in last November’s District Council elections.
Following the raid, another organizer of this weekend’s ballot, Benny Tai, said that Friday night’s incidents show that the primaries were now more important than ever.
“In a time when people are accused of violating the national security law for holding blank pieces of paper, we must not be intimidated but insist on living in reality,” Tai said in a statement on Facebook according to a translation from activist Kong Tsung Gan “As long as there are many people who are not intimidated and insist on using the referendum to refute lies, we can still see a little light in this dark age and continue the spirit of resistance.”
Cover: Police officers walk past a plaque outside the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after its official inauguration on July 8, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. China opened their new office to supervise and guide the local government's enforcement of the new national security law. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
This article originally appeared on VICE US.