August 02, 2019

Hong Kong arrests eight protesters including prominent activist
Hong Kong police arrested eight people, including a prominent political activist, suspected of possessing offensive weapons, fuelling further anger among the millions of anti-government protesters who have taken to city streets all summer.  Police raided an industrial building on Thursday and arrested seven men and a woman, including Andy Chan, the founder of the Hong Kong National Party, a political group banned by city authorities last September.  Supporters gathered late at night at a police station in the neighbourhood of Sha Tin, where the suspects were thought to be held, egging the building and chanting, “Free the martyrs!” Officers also raided a flat and seized 30 smoke bombs, though it remains unclear what the explosives were for and whether the cases were related. Earlier this week, someone shot fireworks at protesters gathering outside another police station in a drive-by attack.  Hong Kong is embroiled in its worst political crisis since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Protesters first called for the formal withdrawal of an extradition proposal that would send suspects to face trial in mainland China, where the ruling Communist Party influences the courts. Despite a pledge from city leaders to suspend the bill, demands have grown to include wider political reforms and ire is also being directed at the police for using increasing force.  Tensions are running high and many in the city are growing weary, including protesters, public transit workers, police officers, health workers and first responders.  But the demonstrations show no sign of waning – the territory is going into its ninth consecutive weekend of mass rallies, which now often end with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowds. The turmoil has led many to become more politically engaged, reflected in a surge of registered voters this year – nearly 386,000 people signed up to vote, the most since at least 2003, according to official figures. More than four million people are registered to vote in the city of about seven million. The unrest has also galvanised young people, many of whom have been on the frontlines. Those aged 17 to 35 registering to vote spiked more than 12 per cent in 2019.  Hong Kong is gearing up for district council elections in the fall, the first citywide polls to be held since the city erupted in protests. More rallies are planned for this weekend, starting with civil servants gathering Friday night in the main business district. The government issued a statementon  Thursday reminding civil servants to remain politically neutral. “At this difficult moment, government colleagues have to stay united and work together to uphold the core values of the civil service and not to affect the effective operation of the government because of personal beliefs as this may undermine public confidence in the impartial discharge of duties by civil servants,” authorities said in a statement.
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