Hong Kong protests ‘cancelled’ after arrests of pro-democracy leaders

The 13th weekend protests in Hong Kong scheduled on Saturday afternoon stand cancelled, its organiser said, after group lost an appeal against a police ban on the proposed rally and two pro-democracy leaders were arrested earlier on Friday over a police headquarters siege in June, reports say.

Civil Human Rights Front’s Bonnie Leung said they cannot ensure the safety of participants in Saturday’s march to Beijing’s Liaison Office without police approval.

Such a march would lead to mass arrests over illegal assembly, Leung said.

Earlier in the day, Joshua Wong, the face of the 2014 Umbrella movement and secretary-general of the young protest group Demosisto, was arrested, pushed into a minivan, and taken away to the police headquarters in Wan Chai as he was heading to a subway station near his home.

Agnes Chow, another prominent member of Demosisto, was arrested at her home in Tai Po on Friday.

Andy Chan, leader of the Hong Kong National Party, was arrested a day earlier as he was about to board a flight to Japan.

Wong and Chow were later released on bail and their cases have been adjourned to November 8.

Chan, charged with rioting and attacking a police officer, was still in detention.

 Wong was charged with inciting, organising and participating in unlawful assembly in the six-hour police station siege on June 21 while Chow was charged with inciting and taking part in unlawful assembly.

The three arrests are seen as a tactic to intimidate Hong Kongers.

Wong said by charging him and Chow, Beijing wants to send a clear warning that those who join Saturday’s banned march will face similar action.

Demosisto vice-chairperson Isaac Cheng called the arrests an attempt to spread “white terror” in Hong Kong.

Wong and Chow did not play any leading role in the weekend protests this summer, Cheng said, adding that the protests were prompted by people’s decisions made over social media.

Wong was released from prison only in June this year after a two-month sentence for his role in the Umbrella Movement.

Hong Kong has been witnessing massive protests over the past 12 weeks demanding formal withdrawal of a bill that allowed suspects to be extradited to China.

Although Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who proposed the bill, assured protesters that the bill was not meant to target politicians and activists and it was “dead”, protesters did not believe her. They wanted total withdrawal of the bill as well as Lam’s immediate resignation.

Beijing has thrown its weight behind Lam and it is waiting for the weekend protests to gradually lose its steam.

Parents are concerned as arrests and long jail terms will ruin the career of their protesting children.

Pro-democracy leaders want Beijing not to interfere in Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy until 2047 as promised by China to Britain during the 1997 handover.