Hong Kong police arrested at least five high-profile democracy activists between Thursday night and Friday afternoon on various charges of participating in “separatist” activities shortly before the city enters its thirteenth week of protests.
Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow of the Demosisto Party, student leader Althea Suen, lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai, and Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan were all arrested in the past 24 hours.
Wong, who rose to prominence as a 17-year-old during the 2017 Umbrella Movement anti-communist protests, reportedly was disappeared into a private vehicle in the middle of the street. He lasted less than three months in freedom since his release from jail in June, shortly after the current protest movement began.
Wong and Chow have since been released on bail and condemned the Chinese communist regime and the brutality of Hong Kong’s police force in remarks to media.
Police have banned protests for this weekend. Shortly after applying for a protest permit on Thursday, Jimmy Sham of the Civil Human Rights Front was attacked by masked men wielding baseball bats.
Both Hong Kong police and mobs of masked pro-China thugs have attempted to end the protests through intimidation, violently attacking peaceful protesters and forcing the hospitalization of dozens. Police have admitted the pro-China mobs have ties to triads, the city’s organized crime syndicates.
Demosisto, a pro-freedom political group of which Joshua Wong is the secretary-general, announced on Twitter Friday that Wong was walking to a mass transit station when unknown men disappeared him into a “private minivan.” Police later alerted the group that the unidentified attackers were police officers and that Wong had been arrested for “inciting, organising and participating in an unauthorised assembly at Wan Chai police headquarters on June 21,” one of the many protests Wong has encouraged or participated in.
Agnes Chow, also a member of Demosisto, was arrested in her home shortly after Wong, according to the Hong Kong Free Press. Both Wong and Chow are 22 years old.
Andy Chan – the head of the Hong Kong National Party, which Hong Kong police banned last year for its support of separation from communist China – was arrested before the Demosisto activists late Thursday. Chan was reportedly traveling to Japan to advocate for the international community to support the peaceful pro-democracy movement and was reportedly arrested for participating in “riots,” which is how Hong Kong and Chinese authorities refer to all peaceful protests.
The Hong Kong Free Press identified two other activists arrested in the past day. Former student leader Althea Suen was reportedly arrested on Thursday night for participating in the destruction of the Legislative Council chamber in July, which protesters argued was necessary to prevent lawmakers from passing a bill that would allow police to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong to China if accused of violating Communist Party laws. The protesters took care not to damage any historical locations, common spaces, or areas other than those used to pass laws.
Lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai was also reportedly arrested on Friday. The charges against him, if any, remain unclear at press time.
The Hong Kong Free Press notes that police have arrested more than 900 people since protests began in June. Freedom for the political prisoners is one of the protesters’ five demands.
Protesters are also demanding a full withdrawal of the extradition bill, direct election of lawmakers, an independent probe on police brutality, and a retraction of the government’s description of the peaceful June 12 protest as a “riot.”
Hong Kong is legally part of China under a policy known as “One Country, Two Systems,” which prevents the Communist Party from imposing its repressive laws on the southern city. Many protesters have expressed the sense that China is no longer interested in abiding by that policy and would like to bring Hong Kong into its communist fold, ending centuries of freedom in the city. While the vast majority ask only for the five demands, some have called for a total separation from China.
The current state of protests scheduled for this weekend is up in the air after police denied the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that regularly ensures the protests go on legally, a permit to assemble. The group appealed the denial on Friday – after the attack on Sham, who filed for the permit – but police once again denied permission. The organization is now announcing the protest is canceled and apologizing for failing to secure the permit.
Amnesty International condemned the mass arrested on Friday.
“The ludicrous dawn swoops by police to arrest Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong are an outrageous assault on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. At the very least, they must be released on bail as soon as possible,” Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said. “This past week, we have seen scare tactics straight out of Beijing’s playbook: pro-democracy protest organizers attacked by thugs, prominent activists arrested after being snatched from their homes and streets, and a major rally planned for Saturday banned.”
“The authorities must end this concerted attack on the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly,” Tam insisted. “It is vital that the authorities send a clear message that people in Hong Kong can still enjoy these rights irrespective of their political beliefs.”
Demosisto has since announced that Wong and Chow have been released on bail, and both made statements to the press shortly thereafter:
VIDEO: Hong Kong pro-democracy activists #JoshuaWong and #AgnesChow leave court after being arrested on Friday morning, accused of "inciting others to take part in unauthorised assembly" among other charges pic.twitter.com/IWHMDSYxNE
— AFP news agency (@AFP) August 30, 2019
“The regime and the Hong Kong government are trying to spread white terror to try to scare Hong Kong people to not participate in the social movement,” Chow said. “We Hong Kong people won’t give up and won’t be scared by these white terror and injustice.”
“All we ask for is to urge Beijing and Hong Kong to withdraw the bill, stop police brutality, and respond to our call for free elections,” Wong told reporters, vowing to continue taking the streets:
My arrest shows the government answers our request for a dialogue with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrest. Our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights are eroded.
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 (@joshuawongcf) August 30, 2019
China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets celebrated the arrests, referring to those detained as the “backbone” of the protest movement.
“The arrests, praised by many Hong Kong residents, show that Hong Kong police will enforce the law firmly and strictly, and send a signal to protesters that they must pay a heavy price for their illegal activities,” the state-run Global Times contended, referring to wong as a “student leader of violent protests” and Demosisto as a “secessionist” movement.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, reported only the facts of the arrests but published an unflattering illustration of Wong, Chow, and Chan along with the news.