Two of Hong Kong’s leading political activists were arrested on Friday a day after two pro-democracy campaigners were attacked by thugs, as the crackdown on dissent in the city widened.
Joshua Wong, the city’s best known pro-democracy activist and the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, was “pushed into a private car on the street” on Friday morning before being transferred to a police station.
He has been charged with three offences relating to an alleged unlawful assembly outside police headquarters in June.
Agnes Chow, another leading figure in Demosisto who was barred from standing in a by-election last year, also faces two unlawful assembly charges relating to the same event, police said.
Ms Chow was active in the 2014 protests as a spokeswoman for Mr Wong’s original political group, Scholarism.
The arrests came hours after the detention of Andy Chan, founder of the now-banned Hong Kong National Party, on Thursday as he passed through immigration at the city’s airport. Police said Mr Chan was charged with rioting and assaulting police in relation to a protest near the border with China in mid-July.
“They want to spread white terror among the Hong Kong protesters,” said Isaac Cheng, vice-chair of Demosisto. “Hong Kongers will not be deterred . . . because they have a strong determination to pursue democracy and freedom.”
Hong Kong has been gripped by a weeks of demonstrations that have plunged the Asian financial hub into its worst political crisis for decades.
The protests, which have been organised largely online and do not have any public leaders, were sparked by the government’s push to pass an extradition law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to China for the first time.
Organisers cancelled a rally scheduled on Saturday after police refused to grant permission to the Civil Human Rights Front, which has arranged three mass anti-government protests that have each drawn more than 1m participants, to hold the demonstration.
In previous cases where permission was denied, some protesters have marched anyway.
The CHRF’s leader, Jimmy Sham, was attacked in a restaurant on Thursday afternoon by two men wearing masks and wielding baseball bats and a knife. Max Chung Kin-ping, another activist who organised a protest against attacks on demonstrators by alleged gangsters, was beaten on the same day by four men carrying iron poles in a separate incident.
China’s People’s Liberation Army on Thursday rotated troops in its Hong Kong garrisons.
The move came after China’s People’s Armed Police personnel were seen performing exercises in the city bordering Hong Kong in what was seen as a warning that Beijing could deploy armed forces in the city for the first time.