Two prominent pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been charged with unlawfully organising a public meeting outside police headquarters as the authorities continue a crackdown on ongoing political protests.
Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, who had been arrested earlier on Friday, were both released on bail, with their case adjourned until November.
Wong later tweeted to say: “My arrest shows the government answers our request for a dialogue with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrest. Our freedom of assembly and other fundamental rights are eroded.
“We are furious about large-scale arrest on the day before 31 August,” he added.
“It is completely ridiculous that the police target specific prominent figures of social movement in the past and framing them as the leaders of the anti-extradition bill protests.”
Several other activists have also been detained and plans for a mass demonstration on Saturday have been blocked in a show of force by authorities ahead of the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s decision to rule out universal suffrage in the city.
Andy Chan, head of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of suspicion of “participating in riots” and “attacking police” during a protest.
Demosisto, a pro-democracy group founded by Wong and Chow, said the arrests were an attempt by the authorities to scapegoat individuals.
“The arrests were apparently a political operation,” Demosisto said on its Facebook page. “It will only make the government misjudge the public, leading to a deadly situation that is more difficult to resolve.”
Hong Kong has been wracked by protests since June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed citizens to be tried in mainland China.
Wong, who became the face of the student-led protests Hong Kong saw in 2014, had been released from jail in June after serving a five-week sentence for contempt of court.
“Two months ago I served all of my jail sentence and left prison. Unfortunately, under the chilling effects generated by Beijing and Hong Kong governments, we are strongly aware how they arrest activists no matter whether they behave progressively or moderately,” Wong told reporters.
“All we ask for is just to urge Beijing and Hong Kong governments to withdraw the bill, stop police brutality and respond to our calls for a free election,” he added.
Main image credit: Getty