Hong Kong Freedom Activist Joshua Wong Arrested Again for Visiting Taiwan

Hong Kong pro-democracy student leader Joshua Wong, center, listens to speakers during a democracy forum in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Taiwan will hold its presidential elections on Jan. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Chiang Ying-ying/AP Photo

Hong Kong police arrested pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong for the second time since August 30 on Sunday following his return from Taiwan, where he was advocating solidarity with his city’s anti-communist protest movement.

Police had initially released Wong, the secretary-general of the Demosisto freedom movement, from prison in early June, as the current protests began to gain momentum. The 22-year-old became instrumental in organizing protests against increased pressure from the Chinese Communist Party on the city as a teenager in 2014 and has since become one of the most recognizable faces of the democracy movement.

Hongkongers took to the streets in June against a proposed legislative bill that would have allowed Hong Kong police to extradite anyone Beijing requested into the custody of the Communist Party if accused of breaking China’s laws. Hong Kong’s laws ban China from imposing its own repressive regime on the city as part of the conditions that made it possible for Beijing to gain control of Hong Kong after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced last week that the government would formally withdraw the extradition bill from consideration, a capitulation to democracy activists after three months of protests. Most Hong Kong protest leaders, including Wong, vowed to continue organizing peaceful resistance against China, noting that they had made five demands of their government, not one.

In addition to the withdrawal of the extradition bill, Hong Kong’s protesters want freedom for their political prisoners, an independent probe into police brutality against them, a government statement walking back the description of protests as “riots,” and the right to elect all the members of the city’s Legislative Council.

Wong had traveled to Taiwan last week to meet with political leaders there – including officials from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – urging solidarity with the protest movement.

Upon arriving in Hong Kong on Sunday, police arrested Wong, accusing him of violating the provisions of his bail from the August 30 arrest. Authorities held Wong in jail overnight, which he called “utterly unreasonable” in a statement posted by Demosisto allies on Twitter.

“I believe the ridiculous circumstance I’m facing now is the direct consequence of the political prosecution and arrest. It also reflects the maladministration of HK government as by making these mistakes,” Wong said in his statement. “I’m also discontented to police’s decision to detain me overnight, despite a clear procedural hiccup, which is utterly unreasonable.”

Wong insisted that he never violated his bail provisions, ultimately proven correct by the public prosecutor in charge of his case and released on Monday.

Hong Kong’s Eastern Court ruled to release Wong on Monday, noting that the court had read aloud the proper conditions of Wong’s bail during his release hearing: that he retained permission to make trips that he had arranged before he was arrested, including his visit to Taiwan and future scheduled visits to Germany and the United States. While this provision was read orally to Wong upon being released on bail, Wong’s bail form allegedly read that he would only be allowed out of Hong Kong on September 12.

The South China Morning Post reported that Karen Ng, the public prosecutor responsible for the case, said “both parties bear the responsibility for this matter,” without elaborating on Wong’s fault given that he had no control over the court’s bail documentation. Wong’s attorney nonetheless apologized for not correcting the court upon receiving the bail forms.

Wong was arrested along with at least seven other prominent Hong Kong protesters last Thursday for participation in “separatist” activities, according to Hong Kong police. Unlike most of the others arrested, who were approached plainly by Hong Kong police and apprehended in their homes or other neutral locations, Wong was whisked off the street by unknown individuals in an unmarked van and resurfaced hours later in police custody.

Authorities charged Wong with “inciting, organizing, and participating in unauthorized assembly” against the government. The charges were specifically tied to the protest in front of the police station in Wan Chai on June 21. Wong – as well as fellow Demosisto activist Agnes Chow and Hong Kong National Party leader Andy Chan, arrested on the same day – deny that they have participated in any illegal activity.

Police released Wong on a $1275.32 bail, conditional to a curfew and regular check-ins with police.

Wong began participating in pro-democracy activities at age 12 and became internationally known as a 17-year-old during the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Now 22, the activist has become one of the best-known faces among the protesters and has taken to advocating for the rights of Hongkongers around the world.

As of Monday morning, Wong was on a flight to Germany for multiple speaking engagements in the country. Following his time in Germany, Wong is scheduled to travel to the United States to galvanize American support for the protesters.

“Somewhat absurd encounter in the past 24hrs – arrested in Airport and detained overnight. Police said I violated bail conditions and had a high risk of flight (?!),” Wong wrote on Twitter, having regained control of his account on Monday following his release. “The overnight detention is wholly unacceptable and unreasonable.”

He explained his reason for traveling to Germany:

Not only calling for their support of HK democracy, I’d also appeal to friends in Germany: – Stalling trade negotiations with China and HK until the human rights issue is put on the agenda; – Suspending the sale and export of riot weapons to Hong Kong Police; Examining the possibility of Germany’s version of HK Human Rights and Democracy Act; – Reviewing current arrangements for visa, migration and political asylum to provide support to HKers in Germany.

He also shared am image of a note someone passed him on his flight with the slogan of the Hong Kong protesters: “Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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