Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s highest profile young democracy activists, including politician Nathan Law and student Joshua Wong, have been arrested ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s arrival on Thursday for his first visit to the territory since becoming president.
Twenty-six activists were arrested for causing a public nuisance after they climbed onto Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia monument, a gift from the Chinese government in 1997 that will be the site of a flag raising ceremony for the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China on Saturday.
Television footage late on Wednesday night showed the protesters including Mr Law and Mr Wong shouting as they were carried away by police.
As Mr Wong was taken to police vans, he shouted: “Protest on July 1”.
A statement by centre-left pro-democracy party Demosisto said they had staged a peaceful protest with three other democracy groups and university students to demand the release of Chinese dissident and Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is dying of cancer in a Chinese hospital, “and to have universal suffrage”.
Among the arrested were seven Demosisto members, including Mr Law, who at 23 was the youngest person elected to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council last year; Agnes Chow, previously a key figure in the 2014 Umbrella protests; and Mr Wong, the school boy who sparked the young protest movement and is the subject of a Netflix film Teenager versus Superpower.
“There is no information about the time of release,” the statement issued in the early hours of Thursday said.
Demosisto has called for street protests on July 1, when Mr Xi will also swear in the new Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
Ahead of the visit, Mrs Lam had told Chinese state television that “all pro-independence behaviour violates local law. We must strictly enforce the law”.
Two former Hong Kong governors, Chris Patten and David Wilson, said in an interview with the South China Morning Post newspaper last weekend that it had been “a big mistake” to allow the democracy campaign in Hong Kong to “morph into calls for independence”.
Mr Wilson said calls for independence were like a red rag to a bull for Beijing, and he warned protesters against going too far.
Mr Xi will visit the People’s Liberation Army garrison on Friday, where around 7000 soldiers are based.
Willy Wo-Lap Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said Mr Xi would come with carrot and stick.
The carrot is likely to be “economic goodies” to maintain high growth, but he predicted a stern lecture to the young.
Mr Lam said the “so-called independence movement” was a red herring, as few people in Hong Kong supported independence, yet it was being used to justify a crackdown against all democracy activists.