Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- Hong Kong authorities have arrested two prominent pro-democracy activists on charges of organizing an illegal protest — the latest crackdown by authorities on unrest that has convulsed the Chinese territory.
Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, two of the Umbrella Movement’s leaders who led pro-democracy protests in 2014, were arrested in dawn swoops and accused of “inciting others to take part in unauthorized assembly.”
Also charged was Andy Chan, head of a now-banned pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, who was detained at the airport Thursday and accused of rioting and attacking police.Chan’s party was banned last year on grounds of national security, the first political group to be outlawed in decades.
Isaac Cheng, vice chair of the group, said the arrests are an attempt to spread fear and “white terror” among the population.He accused authorities of trying to identify leaders in a “leaderless” movement that has rocked Hong Kong for nearly three months.
The government in Beijing has misjudged the situation, he said, urging residents to continue protesting despite the risk of arrest.
Meanwhile, authorities denied permission for a major march on Saturday in what appears to be a harder line on this summer’s protests.
The organizers of the march, the fifth anniversary of a decision by China against allowing fully democratic elections for the leader of Hong Kong, said they were canceling it after an appeals board denied permission.
“The first priority of the Civil Human Rights Front is to make sure that all of the participants who participate in our marches will be physically and legally safe. That’s our first priority,” said Bonnie Leung, a leader of the group.And because of the decision made by the appeal board, we feel very sorry but we have no choice but to cancel the march,” she added.
On Friday, police appealed to Hong Kong residents to stay away from any non-authorized rallies, warning that those caught could face a five-year jail term.
Police commander Kwok Pak Chung said he was aware of social media messages urging people to take strolls or hold rallies in the name of religion.
The Hong Kong protests come at a time when the former British Colony no longer holds the crucial position that it did in the Chinese economy. It is no longer the essential economic link with the West nor an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty. It has rivals in other great Chinese cities.
Although the demonstrations mark the fifth anniversary of the pro-democracy disturbances in 2014, Western support for democracy in Hong Kong rings a little hollow when it is considered that it was only in the last years of British rule, when hand over to China was inevitable, that democracy was introduced to the territory. Before that it was run on largely dictatorial, if enlightened,colonialist lines.
Whilst some of the biggest demonstrations seen in China have taken place it is not clear that a majority of the 7 million Chinese favor civil disorder leading to an inevitable clamp down from the mainland. An editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper on August 30th said that Chinese soldiers have "no reason to sit on their hands" if "the already ugly situation worsens".
The territory of Hong Kong was seized from China in 1842 at the end of the First Opium War and returned in 1997.