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Hong Kong activists arrested: Joshua Wong and others detained

Several prominent Hong Kong democracy activists have been arrested in less than 24 hours amid a police crackdown.

Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow of the political party Demosisto were arrested on Friday for illegally organising a protest, before being released on bail.

Independence campaigner Andy Chan was arrested at the airport on Thursday while trying to fly to Japan.

They are among 900 people arrested since protests began in June.

Lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai of the localist Civic Passion party was also detained, his office said. It was unclear why he was held.

Demonstrations against a now-suspended extradition bill have since turned into wider demands for more autonomy in the former British colony.

Hong Kong police on Friday appealed to members of the public to cut ties with “violent protesters”, and warned people not to take part in a march originally planned for Saturday which had not received official approval.

Why were they arrested?

The Demosisto party says Mr Wong, 23, was “suddenly pushed into a private car on the street”while walking to a train station at around 07:30 (23:30 GMT Thursday).

Both he and Ms Chow were taken to police headquarters in Wan Chai. Mr Wong later tweeted to say their “fundamental rights” were being “eroded”.

Both activists were charged with unlawfully organising a 21 June rally at which protesters blockaded police headquarters for 15 hours. The case was adjourned until November and the activists were released on bail.

In a Facebook post, Demosisto called the arrests a “political operation” and warned that they could lead to “a deadly situation that is more difficult to resolve”.

Andy Chan, founder of the Hong Kong National Party which campaigns for the territory’s independence, says he was detained on Thursday night while trying to board a flight from Hong Kong airport.

He was arrested on suspicion of rioting and assaulting a police officer, according to local outlet HKFP.

Hong Kong Activist Agnes Chow speaks at Meiji University on June 12, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.


Image captionDemosisto member Agnes Chow is among those arrested in the clampdown

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed concern about the arrests, and said the EU would continue to push for a “more positive trend” in the territory.

“The developments in Hong Kong over these last hours are extremely worrying,” she told reporters after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Helsinki.

“We expect the authorities in Hong Kong to respect the freedom of assembly, expression and association as well as the right of people to demonstrate peacefully.”

Who is Joshua Wong?

Joshua Wong is a well-known pro-democracy activist who played a leading role in the 2014 rallies known as Hong Kong’s “Umbrella protests” – so-called because protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from police pepper spray.

Thousands joined marches demanding the right for Hong Kong to choose its own leader – and student leader Mr Wong became the movement’s poster boy.

His latest arrest comes just weeks after he was released from prison on 17 June.

Media captionJoshua Wong: Why activists broke into parliament

The recent protests have been characterised as leaderless – and activist Nathan Law, who co-founded Demosisto, said nobody was inciting protesters.

“There is no leader or platform in this movement,” he said. “If someone is inciting citizens to go to the streets, it must be the harsh political violence of [Hong Kong’s leader] Carrie Lam.

“Demosisto has never been ‘leaders’ of the movement. 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 continue to fight for their rights. Hong Kong people,

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Are further protests planned?

A protest organised by the Civil Human Rights Front – which has assembled several mass rallies – had been planned for this Saturday but has now been cancelled.

Police had declined permission for the rally, citing public safety concerns. It would have marked the 13th consecutive weekend of protests had it gone ahead.

Media captionHow Hong Kong got trapped in a cycle of violence

The decision followed Mr Wong and Ms Chow’s arrests, said Bonnie Leung, vice-convener of the CHRF.

“I think the police are using all kinds of excuses to arrest all kinds of people, including us,” she told the Guardian.

“They arrested Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow this morning so there is a real danger we could face the same consequences as well.”

The convenor of the CHRF, Jimmy Sham, said he had been attacked on Thursday by two masked men who were wielding a baseball bat.

He said he had not been hurt in the encounter, though a friend who shielded him from the attack suffered injuries.

Why are people protesting?

The protests began as rallies against a controversial extradition bill – now suspended – which would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial.

They have since expanded in scope, becoming a broader pro-democracy movement.

Beijing has repeatedly condemned the protesters and described their actions as “close to terrorism”. Reuters news agency reports that earlier in the summer China denied a request by Carrie Lam to fully withdraw the extradition bill to help ease tensions and end the unrest.

The protests have frequently escalated into violence between police and activists, with injuries on both sides, and activists are increasingly concerned that China might use military force to intervene.

On Thursday, Beijing moved a new batch of troops into Hong Kong. Chinese state media described it as a routine annual rotation.

But an editorial in the China Daily newspaper emphasised the presence of Chinese troops was not symbolic, and they would have “no reason to sit on their hands” if the situation deteriorated.

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