Hong Kong swoops down on activists, stifles weekend protests
Move comes after the police ban a major rally planned today by a civil rights group on security grounds
Hong Kong: Prominent democracy activists were arrested on Friday in a dragnet across Hong Kong — a move described by rights groups as a well-worn tactic deployed by China to suffocate dissent ahead of key political events. The sweep comes after a major rally planned by a civil rights group on Saturday was banned by the police on security grounds.
Hong Kong has been locked in three months of political crisis, with increasingly violent clashes between the police and protestors that have prompted an escalating public relations campaign from China. Protesters had planned yet another mass rally on Saturday — the fifth anniversary of Beijing's rejection of a call for universal suffrage in the semi-autonomous city.
Hong Kong has been witnessing increasingly violent clashes between the police and protesters. Pics/AFP
It was a pivotal moment, sparking the 79-day Umbrella Movement in 2014, which seeded the ground for today's protests. But organisers on Friday afternoon said they would not march, complying with the police banning order.
Earlier, two of the Umbrella Movement's leaders, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow – both still well-regarded among the city's youth – were arrested in dawn swoops both accused of "inciting others to take part in unauthorised assembly" among other charges. The pair was charged in court on Friday afternoon. The main charge carries up to five years in jail.
Hours before another vocal independence campaigner Andy Chan was detained at Hong Kong's airport. The arrests are a sign of the "spread of white terror" towards Hong Kong protestors", said Issac Cheng of Demosisto party, co-founded by Wong. More than 850 people have been arrested in connection with protests since June. But that has failed to snuff out the leaderless protest movement.
Chan's small independence party was outlawed last year on the grounds it posed a national security threat, the first such ban since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Year the 79-day Umbrella Movement started
Year Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule
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