HK police charge activists with illegal assembly

Hong Kong independence activists Baggio Leung and Yau Wai Ching told reporters after their release from Central police station yesterday that they remained undaunted.
Hong Kong independence activists Baggio Leung and Yau Wai Ching told reporters after their release from Central police station yesterday that they remained undaunted.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Hong Kong police yesterday charged two disqualified pro-independence legislators with unlawful assembly and forceful entry over an attempt to barge into a legislative council meeting last November.

The detentions are likely to add to concern among democracy activists about interference by Beijing in Hong Kong's affairs, despite a system meant to guarantee the autonomy of the financial hub.

As they left the police station after being questioned for most of the day, the two disqualified legislators, Yau Wai Ching, 25, and Baggio Leung, 30, told reporters they did not regret their actions.

"The government's regime will do whatever it takes to destroy and wipe out Hong Kong's cries for self-determination. But we will never give up," Yau said.

The pair had been picked up at their homes around 7am and taken to the station for questioning. Later, they were released on bail of HK$3,000 (S$539) and are due to appear in court on Friday.

UNDETERRED

The government's regime will do whatever it takes to destroy and wipe out Hong Kong's cries for self-determination. But we will never give up.

YAU WAI CHING, speaking to reporters after leaving the police station yesterday.

They said three of their assistants had been detained but it was unclear if they, too, had been charged.

The police did not respond to a request for comment.

The two, who represent a new breed of more radical activists moving into the political mainstream, had their swearing-in oaths invalidated last October after they used language deemed derogatory to China and displayed a banner declaring "Hong Kong is not China".

The long taboo issue of independence has gained momentum since pro-democracy protests in late 2014, which paralysed parts of the former British colony but failed to secure concessions from Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

"There may be dark days ahead, there may be more arrests and legal challenges, but we shall struggle against evil on the streets, in the courts, within the community and on every media platform," the pair's political party, Youngspiration, said.

In March, nine leaders of the 2014 democracy protests were charged with inciting the street occupation.

They were charged just a day after the Beijing-backed Carrie Lam was chosen as the city's next leader, seen by many as a worrying sign after she had vowed to heal divisions in the Chinese-ruled city and unite society.

In October, the president of the legislature delayed the second swearing-in of Yau and Leung and temporarily banned them from meetings, an unprecedented step that followed weeks of pressure from factions loyal to Beijing.

In November, China's Parliament passed a ruling that effectively barred the pair from taking office, Beijing's most direct intervention in the territory's legal and political system since the 1997 handover.

A Hong Kong court later disqualified them from taking office, ruling their oath of allegiance invalid.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'HK police charge activists with illegal assembly'. Print Edition | Subscribe