HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Three ex-Hong Kong lawmakers were arrested in connection with a disruptive protest in the legislative chamber, as the Beijing-backed government ramps up pressure on the city's beleaguered opposition.
Eddie Chu, Raymond Chan and Ted Hui were arrested by police Wednesday morning (Nov 18), the former lawmakers wrote on their Facebook pages.
The Hong Kong police confirmed it arrested three suspects matching the ages of the ex-lawmakers, citing allegations stemming from an attempt to disrupt a June vote in the Legislative Council on a measure banning criticism of the national anthem. The statement didn't name the individuals.
The three were accused of contempt and attempt to cause harm with a dangerous substance in connection with foul-smelling substances thrown onto the legislative rostrum during the proceedings, police said.
Chu, Chan and Hui didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
The arrests represent the latest blow to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement following the passage of the national security law in June, which curtailed protests and cast a chill over critics of the government.
Last week, the Legislative Council's opposition resigned after China's top legislative body handed down a new loyalty requirement for lawmakers and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam used it to immediately oust four of their members.
"This is their ongoing scare tactics - the idea is to rule by fear and silence all," Ms Claudia Mo, another former opposition lawmaker, said Wednesday. "The apparent charge of disrupting the legislature sounded minor and yet they still found it fit to stage three separate 'dawn raids.' This is the worst of times in Hong Kong."
The expulsion of the lawmakers last week triggered a fresh wave of international condemnation, with the UK summoning China's ambassador.
US President Donald Trump's national security adviser, Mr Robert O'Brien, pledged to "identify and sanction those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong's freedom."
Hui was among the 15 lawmakers who resigned Nov 11. Chan and Chu - a longtime activist who was known as the "king of votes" for getting the most votes in the 2016 Legislative Council election - had previously resigned in protest against China's decision to extend the council's term by an extra year without a new election.
The three were among seven pro-democracy politicians arrested over their their involvement in scuffles at a separate Legislative Council meeting in May.
"The prosecutions will keep going - not only for those three being arrested this morning, but all the other pan-democrats," said Mr Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the opposition Democratic Party who resigned last week. "This is definitely not the end of the story. And it's also a reflection of the Beijing government in Hong Kong - they have to have complete control, and complete jurisdiction over Hong Kong, in every area."