Hong Kong authorities arrested pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong on charges of “unauthorized assembly” during last year’s anti-China protest movement, those close to him announced on Thursday, as well as violating a ban on wearing masks in public.
Police reportedly accused Wong of breaching an emergency law imposed by the region’s Beijing-controlled chief executive Carrie Lam during last year’s pro-democracy protests that prohibited masks and face coverings on public demonstrators as part of a crackdown aimed at identifying protesters. The law passed in October 2019.
“Joshua is arrested when reporting to Central Police Station at about 1 pm today,” read a tweet from Wong’s Twitter on Thursday. “The arrest is related to participating in an unauthorized assembly on [Oct. 5] last year.”
This year, in light of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong made it illegal to not wear a mask in public. Hong Kong health officials have demanded universal mask-wearing to curtail the spread of the virus, while Hong Kong police officers have lamented that masks make it harder to identify people participating in pro-democratic protests. As Hong Kong has also imposed limits on the number of people who can legally gather in public at any one time, protests in general have been de facto outlawed.
According, to the state broadcaster RTHK, veteran social activist Koo Sze-yiu was also arrested.
Speaking outside the police station on Thursday, Wong said his arrest was clearly politically motivated.
“I believe an obvious reason is that the regime’s authorities are overlapping one case with another to try to confine all activists within Hong Kong’s borders,” he told reporters. “No matter what happens. I will still continue to resist and hope to let the world to know how Hong Kongers choose not to surrender.”
Wong, 23, rose to international prominence as a student pro-democracy campaigner during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, when widespread demonstrations against Chinese interference in the supposedly autonomous region began.
Since Beijing’s passage of a “national security law” this year, Wong and dozens of other high-profile activists have been arrested on vague charges of undermining the power of the Chinese state, encouraging foreign interference, or “terrorism.”
In July, China banned Wong and 11 other pro-democracy candidates from running in the 2020 legislative election, which officials have delayed by a year since, claiming it necessary given the ongoing Chinese coronavirus pandemic. According to Wong, he was banned from the election after he denounced the national security law as “draconian,” a term regularly used by the international press.
“Clearly, Beijing shows a total disregard for the will of Hongkongers, tramples upon the city’s last pillar of vanishing autonomy, and attempts to keep Hong Kong’s legislature under its firm grip,” he said at the time. “However, in order to safeguard the city’s future, Hong Kongers will not surrender. Our resistance will continue on and we hope the world can stand with us in the upcoming battle.”