Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong among 3 charged for participating in protests

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong among 3 charged for participating in protests

Former student leader Joshua Wong walks out from prison
Joshua Wong walks out from prison after being jailed for his role in the “Umbrella Movement” protests on Jun 17, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Tyrone Siu)

HONG KONG: Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was arrested on Friday (Aug 30), one of three prominent activists rounded up by the police for participating in protests. 

Wong is the face of Hong Kong's push for full democracy during the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014 that paralysed parts of the city for 79 days. He had been released from jail in June after serving a five-week term for contempt of court.

Two other prominent activists, Andy Chan and Agnes Chow, were also detained for being involved in the recent protests. Chan was arrested on Thursday at Hong Kong International Airport on suspicion of "participating in riots" and "attacking police" during a protest on Jul 13.

All three have been charged, said police. 

READ: Joshua Wong: Poster child of Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Movement'

FILE PHOTO: Demonstration demanding Hong Kong's leaders to step down and withdraw the extradit
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong talks to the media outside the Legislative Council during a demonstration demanding Hong Kong's leaders to step down and withdraw the extradition Bill, Jun 17, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Wong and Chow, both 22, appeared in court accused of "inciting others to take part in unauthorised assembly" among other charges. 

After receiving bail, they spoke outside the court and Wong vowed to "continue our fight", railing against the "chilling effect" of the arrests on opponents of Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government.

Authorities are "trying to create white terror" to scare people away from participating in the social and democratic movement, he added.

Earlier, his party Demosisto said on Twitter that Wong was pushed into a car while on his way to South Horizons MTR station.

"Our secretary-general Joshua Wong was just arrested this morning at roughly 7:30, when he was walking to the South Horizons MTR station," it wrote. 

"He was forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight."

Chow was arrested at her home, Demosisto added. 

Agnes Chow
Hong Kong activist Agnes Chow attends a news conference at Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on Jun 10, 2019. (File photo: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

The day saw rolling arrests of leading pro-democracy voices, including three members of the city's parliament - Cheng Chung-tai, who advocates greater political autonomy for Hong Kong, Au Nok-hin and Jeremy Tam.

Cheng's arrest was announced by his Civic Passion party, while police confirmed a 35-year-old man surnamed Cheng had been held over "conspiracy to cause criminal damage" linked to the storming of the city's parliament in July.

Police confirmed the late Friday arrests of lawmakers Au and Tam for their roles in "obstructing" officers when riot police cleared protesters from the streets of the densely populated Mong Kok neighbourhood on Jul 7-8. Au is also accused of assaulting a police officer.

Tam, a long-term pilot for Cathay Pacific, announced on social media last week that after 20 years he was resigning from the airline, which has been accused of bowing to pressure from Beijing.

The arrests came ahead of a major rally on Saturday planned by a civil rights group to mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing's rejection of a call for universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous city.

The rejection was a pivotal moment which sparked the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Organisers said on Friday afternoon that they would not march, complying with a police ban on the rally.

READ: Weekend mass rally in Hong Kong 'cancelled' following police ban

Authorities warned people not to take to the streets.

"I'm sure all of you know that all the people arrested today were linked to what had happened, so tomorrow's protest, whether anything will happen tomorrow we will continue to gather information and observe the situation," said police regional commander for Hong Kong island Kwok Pak Chung. 

"But for sure we are not against anyone specifically, but we will focus on the location where the protests could go wrong, this is what we care. Again I want to advise every citizen (of Hong Kong) not to test the law because we will respond with relevant action, we will not tolerate any violence act."

READ: Hong Kong police say violent protesters forced use of water cannon, warning shot

READ: Love in a time of tear gas: Politics and romance on Hong Kong's barricades

But a hardcore minority among the protesters, mainly young students, are unlikely to heed the police ban, setting up another weekend of violent clashes.

Student protester Kelly, who wanted to be identified only by her first name, said the arrests would not cow the movement.

"The police think there are leaders behind the protests and this will stop us. We are our own leaders and we will keep coming out.

"The government doesn't understand this."

READ: Chinese troops in Hong Kong won't 'sit on hands' if situation worsens: China Daily

READ: China warns Hong Kong protesters: 'Those who play with fire will perish by it'

The unrest started over a now-suspended extradition Bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial.

It has since evolved into calls for greater democracy under the "one country, two systems" formula, which guarantees freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including an independent judiciary.

Protesters say freedoms in the semi-autonomous city, unique within China, are being eroded by Beijing.

Nearly 900 people have been arrested since the demonstrations escalated in mid-June with frequent clashes between protesters and police, who have at times fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse activists.

The Civil Human Rights Front leader, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by two men armed with a knife and a baseball bat on Thursday, it said on its Facebook page. He was not hurt but a friend who tried to protect him suffered injuries to his arm.

"The repeated harassment of pro-democracy activists, combined with police bans on demonstrations, has created a climate of fear for peaceful protesters," Amnesty International said in a statement.

"It is vital that the authorities send a clear message that those who target peaceful activists with such violence, irrespective of their political views, will face justice."

This weekend marks five years since Beijing ruled out universal suffrage for Hong Kong and comes as the financial hub faces its first recession in a decade, with all its pillars of growth under stress.

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests 

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Source: Agencies/rw/zl