Hong Kong protests: Joshua Wong and other pro-democracy figures arrested
Activist Agnes Chow held by police as Andy Chan, head of a now banned pro-independence party, is also detained
Erin Hale in Hong Kong and Lily Kuo
Fri 30 Aug 2019 03.21 BST First published on Fri 30 Aug 2019 01.56 BST
Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong
Three prominent pro-democracy figures have been arrested in Hong Kong in an apparent crackdown amid protests that have plunged the city into its worst political crisis in decades.
Democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, former student leaders of pro-democracy protests in 2014, were arrested on Friday and Andy Chan, head of a now banned pro-independence party, was detained by police on Thursday.
Chow and Wong’s political organisation, Demosisto, said Wong was “forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street” while walking to a subway station at about 7.30am. He was then taken to police headquarters in Wan Chai. Chow was arrested at her home and also taken to the Wan Chai police headquarters, according to Demosisto.
Police said Chow and Wong were arrested on suspicion of “inciting others to participate in an unauthorised assembly” as well as “knowingly participating in an unauthorised assembly” during protests outside of police headquarters on 21 June. Wong has also been accused of organising an unlawful assembly.
“Both have been detained for investigation,” the police said in a statement.
In a separate incident, Chan, the head of a pro-independence political party was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport while on his way to Japan, according to Hong Kong Free Press.
The police confirmed that a 29-year-old man was arrested at the Hong Kong International Airport on Thursday on suspicion of “participating in riots” and “attacking police”. “The arrested man is being detained for investigation,” the police said in an emailed statement.
The arrests come ahead of a planned rally on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s proposal for direct elections in Hong Kong, which would only allow candidates pre-screened by Beijing. The proposal sparked mass protests, of which Wong and Chow were major leaders, that paralysed parts of the financial hub for 79 days.
“This is part and parcel of a new round of oppression against the movement,” said Kenneth Chan, a professor in the department of government at Hong Kong Baptist University. “The arrest of better known leaders is intended to intimidate others in the eve of a possible ‘unlawful’ rally,” he said.
Agnes Chow speaks during a news conference in June Photograph: Jae C Hong/AP
On Friday, the organiser of Saturday’s protests, the Civil Human Rights Front, said it was calling off a march planned for the day after police rejected an appeal to allow the event to go ahead. Police denied permission for Saturday’s demonstration on the grounds of protecting public order.
“Our first principle is always to protect all the participants and make sure that no one bears legal consequences because of participating in the protest that we organised,” said CHRF vice convener Bonnie Leung.
Wong and Chow were key student leaders of the 2014 protests. Wong was released from prison in June while serving a two-month sentence for his role in those protests.
Neither has played a central role in the current protests, a largely leaderless movement organised via social media. He has attended the protests and spoken out frequently in support of the demonstrators’ demands. Chow has also attended recent demonstrations and maintains an active social media account in support of the protests, but has otherwise kept a relatively low profile.
Nathan Law, another former student leader and founding chair of Demosisto criticised what he said was the government’s attempt to blame the protests on “black hands” working behind the scenes.
“There is no leader or platform in this movement. If someone is inciting citizens to go to the streets, it must be the harsh political violence of Carrie Lam. Every Hong Kong citizen who has come out has done so according to his own conscience. No matter how the Chinese Communist Party attempts to smear this, nothing can change that fact.”
“We appeal to the public not to be afraid of political violence and white terror and continue to fight for their rights,” he said in a statement. “Hong Kong people, go!”
All three activists belong to political organisations that advocate for independence or “self-determination”. Chow, of Demosisto, was disqualified from running for legislative elections last year on the basis of her group’s support of self determination, which authorities have interpreted as support for independence.
Chan’s Hong Kong National Party, was banned last year on grounds of national security, the first political group to be outlawed in decades.
More than 800 people have been arrested since protests began in early June against a legislative bill that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be extradited to the mainland China, a tool protesters fear Beijing will use to target political enemies.
“It’s a campaign, probably a well planned campaign, to arrest all the activist and this will involve a lot of less famous people who have been standing in the front lines of the protests,” said Joseph Cheng, a retired political scientist who has been following the protests closely.
“This is something the government can do – massive arrests to dry up and sap the strength of the protest movement,” he said.
Critics call the crackdown “white terror” that has affected not only protesters, but regular citizens or staff at Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific, who have been encouraged to inform on their colleagues. Ahead of a class boycott by protesting students next week, teachers have also come under fire from pro-government figures.
“This is exactly what white terror means to ordinary people,” said Cheng. “The administration is using all kinds of suppression to create a deterrent effect.”
The protests, which have evolved into a broader political movement demanding universal suffrage in addition to the withdrawal of the bill, pose the most serious challenge to Beijing’s authority over the city since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997.
Under the terms of the handover, Hong Kong was promised 50 years of a “high degree” of autonomy, in a framework known as “one country, two system,” in which the city would keep an independent judiciary, legislature, a free press, and other freedoms. Protesters say the extradition bill represents the end of Hong Kong’s freedom under Beijing’s tightening control over the city.
Ahead of Saturday’s planned protests, Chinese paramilitary were holding exercises in a stadium in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong on Thursday. Earlier that day, before sunrise, trucks of Chinese troops crossed into Hong Kong as part of what officials said was a “normal and routine” annual rotation.
An English-language editorial in the state-run China Daily on Friday said Chinese troops, stationed in Hong Kong since 1997, were “not merely a symbol”.
“If the already ugly situation worsens, with the violence and unrest threatening to spiral out of control … the armed forces stationed in [Hong Kong] will have no reason to sit on their hands.”
[기사: The Guardian]