Hong Kong police arrested three pro-democracy activists within hours of each other this week in an apparent attempt to subdue the mass protests that began earlier this summer, plunging the city into its worst political crisis in years.
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Democracy leaders Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, who both played pivotal roles in the so-called Umbrella Revolution in 2014, were arrested Thursday morning local time, shortly after police detained Andy Chan, leader of the banned pro-independence party.
Wong, the secretary-general of Demosisto, a pro-democracy organization that advocates self-determination for Hong Kong, was arrested around 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday when he was “forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight,” Demosisto said in a tweet. Police arrested Chow, also a Demosisto leader, hours later at her home.
Chan, meanwhile, was detained while trying to board a flight to Japan from Hong Kong International Airport, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
Police said they arrested Wong and Chow on suspicion of inciting others to participate in an unauthorized assembly and taking part in an illegal assembly during a siege of police headquarters in mid-June, according to the South Morning China Post. Chan was arrested on suspicion of rioting and assaulting a police officer during a separate protest.
Both Wong and Chow were granted bail on Friday evening.
"We will continue our fight no matter how they arrest and prosecute us,” Wong told reporters after his release.
Their arrests come on the eve of a proposed mass protest, which has been banned by police. The protest has since been called off over fears that police will arrest attendees en masse.
Protests, now in their 13th week, began in June over a bill — shelved for now — that would allow extradition of suspected criminals from Hong Kong to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Since then, however, they’ve morphed to reflect wider demands for democratic reform, including calls for universal suffrage, more direct elections and the removal of Hong Kong’s embattled leader, Carrie Lam.
Clashes between protesters and police have also increasingly descended into violence, with police firing tear gas and beating some protesters with batons across the city, according to multiple media reports.
Police have increased arrests and, in recent weeks, banned rallies that were once permitted.
Saturday will mark the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s decision to impose restrictions on Hong Kong elections, which set off a series of protests internationally known as the Umbrella Movement.