Hong Kong protest leader Alex Chow accuses government of harassment with arrests

Hong Kong student leader Alex Chow (centre) arrives at police headquarters to assist investigations in relation to the two-month Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, in Hong Kong on Jan 18, 2015. Mr Chow on Sunday accused police of mounting a
Hong Kong student leader Alex Chow (centre) arrives at police headquarters to assist investigations in relation to the two-month Occupy Central civil disobedience movement, in Hong Kong on Jan 18, 2015. Mr Chow on Sunday accused police of mounting a campaign of harassment against pro-democracy campaigners after he became the latest figure to be arrested and released by police. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong student leader Alex Chow on Sunday accused police of mounting a campaign of harassment against pro-democracy campaigners after he became the latest figure to be arrested and released by police.

Several protest leaders have been summoned in recent days over offences relating to the "Occupy Central" mass protests that shut down parts of the city late last year, only to be released in what lawyers have condemned as a potential abuse of process.

Police have vowed to investigate the "principal instigators" of the rallies calling for free leadership elections, in what campaigners say is part of a crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.

Chow, who voluntarily turned himself in on Sunday in line with a police request, said he had been formally arrested but not charged after being questioned for around an hour.

"If they have enough evidence, for sure... they can lay the charges," Chow said, accusing the authorities of creating politically motivated "white terror".

"I can't think of any other reason (for the arrests) other than creating white terror or a politically motivated one," he said.

A police spokeswoman declined to comment on Chow's case when asked by AFP.

On Friday, Joshua Wong, the teenage face of the pro-democracy movement, and several other protesters were also arrested on counts relating to the mass protests and then released.

Wong's lawyer Michael Vidler said authorities were trying to create a "sense of uncertainty" and that if charges were laid at a later time based on evidence already in hand it would constitute an "an abuse of process".

Beijing has pledged that Hong Kong can choose its own leader for the first time in 2017 but insists on vetting candidates, an arrangement which protesters dismiss as "fake democracy".

Hong Kong and Beijing have consistently branded the protests illegal.

Other leading figures have been asked to show up at police stations in the week ahead, including outspoken media tycoon Jimmy Lai - whose house and office were firebombed on Monday - and the three founders of the Occupy Central campaign.