Three leading pro-democracy activists have been arrested in Hong Kong as part of a clampdown by authorities on the ongoing political protests that have plunged the city into its worst crisis in decades.
Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, former student leaders of the pro-democracy protests Hong Kong saw in 2014, were arrested on Friday. Police said the pair, both 22, were arrested on suspicion of “organising unorganised assembly” and “knowingly participating in unauthorised assembly”.
Andy Chan, head of the banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, was arrested in Hong Kong’s airport on Thursday on suspicion of suspicion of “participating in riots” and “attacking police” during a protest on July 13, police said.
The detentions are the highest-profile arrests since the pro-democracy protests began in June over fears about China exercising increasing control over Hong Kong.
Demosisto, the pro-democracy organisation founded by Wong and Chow, said on its Twitter account that Wong was “forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight” while walking to a subway station in the city.
“He has now been escorted to the police headquarters in Wan Chai,” it said, adding: “our lawyers following the case now.”
The account later confirmed that Chow had also been arrested and taken to Wan Chai police headquarters.
A photograph of Wong meeting a US diplomat was published in a pro-Beijing newspaper earlier this month. US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus called China a “thuggish regime” for publishing photographs and personal details of the official.
Police have refused permission for a planned pro-democracy march on Saturday, and an appeal to allow the demonstration to go ahead was turned down on Friday.
The Civil Human Rights Front, which has organised previous mass protests, said it would comply with the order and cancel the march.
The Front said its leader, Jimmy Sham, was attacked by two men armed with a knife and baseball bat on Thursday. Sham was unharmed, but a friend was injured trying to protect him, it said on Facebook.
“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.
The political arrest currently wracking Hong Kong was sparked by anger over a proposed bill that would have allowed citizens to be extradited to mainland China to face trial.
The bill has since been suspended, but protests have evolved into calls for greater democracy for the city, which is currently governed under the “one country, two systems” principle.
Main image credit: Getty