Hong Kong police arrested three backbone young activists ahead of Saturday's march which is widely expected to lead to violence.
Hong Kong police use water cannons to disperse illegal rallies for the first time on Sunday in Tsuen Wan. Water was fired toward barricades and the open space without targeting protesters. (Photo: Cui Meng/GT)
The arrests, praised by many Hong Kong residents, show that Hong Kong police will enforce the law firmly and strictly, and send a signal to protesters that they must pay a heavy price for their illegal activities, experts say.
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, a Hong Kong activist and student leader of violent protests, was arrested on Friday morning when he was walking to the South Horizons MTR station, according to local media reports.
The Hong Kong Police Force confirmed with the Global Times that Wong was arrested. Other details are unknown.
According to secessionist organization Demosisto's Facebook page, Wong was arrested on three charges. Wong was the leading member of the organization.
Born in 1996, Wong is seen as a "vanguard" by the Hong Kong opposition camp. He took part in the 2014 Occupy Central Movement and attempted to break China's "one country, two systems" principle.
He tried to invite foreign forces to meddle in Hong Kong affairs. On August 6, he was spotted by residents meeting with Julie Eadeh, a political counselor at the US Consulate General in Hong Kong, which he later admitted, according to Hong Kong media. He was also among one of the opposition figures attempting to push US Congress to pass the "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act."
Another secessionist, Andy Chan Ho-tin, was detained at the Hong Kong International Airport on Thursday night, according to his own Facebook page.
Hong Kong Police confirmed his arrest with the Global Times on Friday, but did not reveal any details.
Chan was among eight people suspected of holding offensive weapons in Sha Tin. He was arrested by police earlier this month and was later released on bail.
A source close to the matter confirmed with the Global Times on Friday that a third young activist, Agnes Chow Ting, a member of Demosisto, was also arrested.
A source close to the matter told the Global Times that Wong was arrested for allegedly inciting others to participate in unapproved assembly while violently besieging police headquarters in June, and for organizing and participating in unauthorized assembly. Chan was arrested for allegedly participating in riots and assulting police, the source said. Chow allegedly participated in unapproved assembly and incited others to join. Police have detained them for further investigation.
Police arrested the three activists just one day before a scheduled march on Saturday, during which protesters and opposition forces plan to march from Central to the liaison office of the central government in Sai Ying Pun. Police believed that Saturday's march could lead to extreme violence, and thus objected it.
Kwok Park-chung, regional commander of the police force on Hong Kong Island, said on Thursday that residents who participate in banned assemblies will face a maximum of five years in prison.
Lam Chi-wai, chairman of the Junior Police Officers' Association, told the Global Times on Friday that this latest police operation demonstrates that Hong Kong police enforced, and will enforce, the law firmly.
Lam said that the Association believes the Hong Kong police will treat all offenders equally. If there is sufficient evidence against suspects, they will investigate and bring them to justice.
"Hong Kong is a law-abiding society, the police will give justified answers to the majority of Hong Kong citizens, who are peace-loving, "Lam said.
Commenting on the arrest of the activists, some Hong Kong residents told the Global Times that it was the best news they had heard this day.
Angus Ng Hok Ming, Executive President of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Association, told the Global Times that police had acted in a very effective way to end violence and to hold activists who led the city into chaos accountable.
Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and expert on Hong Kong studies, told the Global Times that police arresting the three protesters ahead of Saturday's protest indicates that the police will conduct law enforcement more strictly on Saturday, while also sending a strong signal to protesters that they must pay a heavy price for any illegal assembly or violent crimes.
Previous police detentions mainly involved ordinary protesters, but this latest operation shows that police have moved to the backbone of the protesters, Tian said. Tian said that police should follow the trail left by Wong to explore the foreign forces and personnel involved, to punish those who masterminded the chaos.
Meanwhile, the People's Armed Police staged a new drill that featured a large-scale, anti-riot exercise in Shenzhen's Bay Sports Center on Thursday, near Hong Kong. Armed officers moved forward while confronted with rioters holding long batons, and used two water cannons on the crowd.