HONG KONG - A wave of arrests has swept the city, with several Hong Kong activists and three lawmakers hauled to the police station for their roles in protests since June 9, ahead of news that the authorities upheld a police ban on a proposed rally and march on Saturday (Aug 31).
The arrests included Demosisto’s secretary-general Joshua Wong and member Agnes Chow, and coincided with claims of attacks on activists, including mass rally organiser Jimmy Sham, by unknown men.
Both Wong and Chow, arrested on Friday morning, are accused of taking part in a June 21 unauthorised demonstration outside Wan Chai police station and inciting others to join it. Wong, a founder of the pro-self determination party Demosisto, faces a further charge of organising the illegal demonstration.
The two, now out on bail of HK$10,000 (S$1,770) each and under curfew, will have their case heard on Nov 8.
Wong was released from prison in mid-June after he served a two-month sentence for his role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protest.
Another member of Demosisto, Ivan Lam, who left the city on Aug 28, faces a count of incitement.
Others arrested included former University of Hong Kong student union president Althea Suen and Sha Tin district councillor Rick Hui. The lawmakers arrested were Civic Passion's Cheng Chung Tai, Civic Party's Jeremy Tai and Mr Au Nok Hin, an independent.
On Thursday night, the leader of the banned Hong Kong National Party, Andy Chan Ho Tin, was detained at the airport while preparing to board a flight.
Chan was among eight people arrested for possession of offensive weapons following a raid in Sha Tin earlier this month, where officers found materials for making petrol bombs and other weapons.
On Thursday, the Civil Human Rights Front’s convenor Mr Sham and organiser of a July anti-triad protest in Yuen Long Max Chung were attacked hours apart by masked men.
Mr Chung and the reporter he was with sustained injuries, while Mr Sham’s friend was hit. Mr Sham was unscathed.
The developments came ahead of news that authorities upheld a police ban on the Front’s application for a rally and a march on Saturday.
The Front is the organiser of the biggest street marches Hong Kong has had since the handover in 1997, including the two million turnout on June 16 and most recently, an estimated 1.7 million on Aug 18.
Its spokesman Bonnie Leung called the decision to reject the Front’s appeal against the police ban “a total violation” of human rights in Hong Kong, adding that this could make some people more angry and drive them to take to the streets anyway.
The march planned for Saturday was to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s announcement of a political reform framework that stated there must be screening for the Chief Executive elections in the city, but this was eventually rejected by the Legislative Council.
The move resulted in the 2014 Yellow Umbrella movement that lasted 79 days when key roads in the city centre were occupied.
There are now calls online for people to participate in a religious gathering on Saturday, while a two-day strike from Monday has been planned. The strike is the second such call following Aug 5, when protests were held in multiple districts and later turned violent and chaotic.
Hong Kong’s flagship carrier Cathay Pacific has warned employees they risk getting fired if they joined the two-day strike, Bloomberg reported.
An editorial in the China Daily newspaper on Friday said Chinese soldiers stationed in Hong Kong have “no reason to sit on their hands” if the situation in the city worsens.
The protests began five months ago when the Hong Kong government mooted a controversial Bill – now suspended – that would allow the authorities to extradite people to jurisdictions it has no formal extradition agreements with, including mainland China.
But anti-extradition protests have since morphed into a broader movement seeking universal suffrage and an independent probe into alleged police brutality.
More than 800 people have been arrested since June 9.