Police said that those arrested were three men and a woman, aged between 16 and 21.
Although the police refused to name the group or the arrested people, the political group Studentocalism said on Facebook that its members were among those who took the name of former leader Tony Chung.
At a news conference late Wednesday, police spokesman Lee Quah-wah said the organization had “posted about the establishment of a new party that advocates Hong Kong independence on social media.”
“We have to enforce the laws even if the crimes are committed on the Internet. Don’t think you can avoid responsibility in cyberspace and commit crimes,” Lee said.
Police said the four are being investigated under Articles 20 and 21 of the Security Act, which deal with segregation. Under the law, a separatist offense of a “serious nature” can carry a sentence of at least 10 years and up to life imprisonment, while a lesser offense may carry a sentence of three to 10 years.
On Sunday, the group published a post titled “Counter Chinese Nationalism, Building Hong Kong Nationalism”, which linked to the Facebook page and recruitment forms for “Hong Kong Studentocalism US Division”. The group’s US page states that it is “committed to advancing the path of Hong Kong citizens to reclaim our right to self-determination, and will advance Hong Kong’s path towards freedom.”
Immediately after the arrest, a CNN reporter had canceled an interview, unrelated to the security law, “in view of the latest developments in Hong Kong.”
Sophie Richardson, China’s director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the arrest was “widespread misuse of this draconian law (which makes it clear that its purpose is not to protect national security, but to silence dissent.”
He said that as the September legislative election approaches they “raise concerns of widespread rifts over political parties”.
However, as plans to pursue those elections have been put into doubt this week, according to reports the government may exercise emergency powers to delay them until 2021, due to the recent increase in coronovirus cases in Hong Kong. .
The nomination period for the election ends on Friday, due to the elections due on 6 September.
The city has recorded more than 100 new coronovirus infections every day in the past week, up from zero cases at the end of June. Wednesday marked the first day of the strictest social far-reaching measures in Hong Kong: essentially facades at indoor and outdoor public spaces, no more than two people per group when gathered in public, and dining in restaurants No.
Ronny Tong, a member of Hong Kong’s executive council or de facto cabinet, told CNN that he does not know how long any delays can occur, but any decision to delay the election will be due to public safety concerns.
“I hope people understand that no delay is due to community safety and political considerations. The people of Hong Kong still have the right to vote freely,” Tong said.
The city’s Registration and Election Office said it is “closely monitoring” the outbreak of coronovirus in the city and its potential impact on the election and “will listen carefully to the advice of government and health experts.”
Pro-democracy figures have condemned any suggestion of postponing the election. Activist Joshua Wong said the epidemic was an excuse, leaving the government “afraid that they would suffer landslides in the upcoming election.”
Opposition parties were aiming to drive a wave of discontent with the government for a historic victory in a quasi-democratic legislature, where only half the seats are controlled by so-called functional constituencies, which represent business and society groups and are usually pro-active There is a government.
Last year, pro-democracy candidates won a landslide victory in local council elections. A similar result in the Legislative Council could put them in a position to force a constitutional crisis by blocking the budget and pressuring Lam to resign. Both China and Hong Kong governments have suggested that such a scheme may be illegal under the new national security law.
CNN’s Issac Yee, Vanesi Chan, Philip Wang, Jadin Sham and Sarah Fadeel contributed reporting.