HONG KONG • Nine democracy protesters were arrested yesterday over an anti-Beijing rally in the latest swoop by police as activists say they are being persecuted.
Concerns are growing that the semi-autonomous city's freedoms are under threat from Beijing, fuelling calls from some groups for greater autonomy or even a complete split from China.
Pro-independence activists Yau Wai Ching and Baggio Leung were arrested and charged on Wednesday over causing chaos in the legislature after being barred from taking up their seats as lawmakers last year. Last month, nine pro-democracy activists, including students and lawmakers, were charged over their roles in mass 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement rallies.
The spate of arrests comes ahead of an expected visit by China's President Xi Jinping to mark the 20th anniversary of the city's handover to China by Britain in 1997 on July 1.
"I believe the police have set out to arrest all street activists so they won't dare to protest when Xi Jinping visits," pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong said.
Two of those arrested belong to the pro-democracy party Demosisto, co-founded by Mr Wong. Others included members of pro-democracy party League of Social Democrats, and student or former student protesters. The charges include illegal assembly, obstructing a police officer and assaulting a police officer, activists said. All nine protesters said they had been charged and released on bail.
They were arrested over their participation in a rally in November against China's decision to intervene in the row over whether to disqualify Yau and Leung. The rally was triggered after Beijing said it would make a special interpretation of Hong Kong's constitution to determine whether Yau and Leung should be prevented from taking up their seats after their anti-China protest during oath-taking.