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Date TimeAugust 30, 2019
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Hong Kong Police Warn of More Arrests After Sweep of Activists
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong police arrested prominent opposition figures including Joshua Wong -- and warned other protesters could share their fate at illegal demonstrations this weekend -- raising tensions as authorities seek to quell pro-democracy demonstrations that have raged for nearly three months.The 22-year-old Wong, who was scheduled to speak about the protests in the U.S. next month, was among well-known pro-democracy activists arrested by police on Thursday and Friday. Those arrested included Wong’s fellow leader of 2014 Occupy protests, Agnes Chow; independence advocate Andy Chan; and District Councilor Rick Hui.Police said more than 20 people were arrested since Thursday, and warned at a briefing Friday that others could be charged if they take part in protests with official approval. A colonial statute passed during a wave of deadly riots in the 1960s allows authorities to the power to imprison those who participate in unlawful assemblies for as long as five years and more than 900 have been arrested on a variety of charges since June.The arrests were part of a broader push back against the largely leaderless protest movement, which flared up in June over now-suspended legislation allowing extraditions to China before widening into a broader push for more democracy. The Civil Human Rights Front -- the organizer of the biggest recent demonstrations -- said Friday it was forced to cancel a rally planned for Saturday after police withheld approval.The crisis in the former British colony threatens to distract from Chinese President Xi Jinping’s celebrations of 70 years of Communist Party rule on Oct. 1, which will highlight the country’s rebound from imperialism, war and inner turmoil. Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, Carrie Lam, earlier this week called for a dialogue with the opposition, while refusing to rule out invoking a sweeping colonial-era law that allows for easier arrests, deportations, censorship and property seizures.The summer’s political unrest has been the worst since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, with demonstrations that have resulted in often-violent clashes between protesters and police. Political observers said the moves ran the risk of drawing more people into the streets for unauthorized rallies, which can more easily get out of hand.“Such actions are tantamount to inciting trouble at a time when the government is talking about dialogue and trying to lower the temperature,” said Kevin Yam, a political commentator and member of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Progressive Lawyers Group. “You can’t on the one hand say, ‘Let’s lower the temperature, let’s talk, let’s make nice,’ and on the other hand do something like this.”Separately, Reuters reported that Chinese authorities had earlier this month rejected a Hong Kong government proposal to formally withdraw extradition legislation that sparked the protests. The bill’s withdrawal and an independent inquiry into the unrest were seen as the most feasible compromises, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed senior Hong Kong government official.Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. warned employees not to take part in a general strike planned for next week, after the airline’s chief executive, Rupert Hogg, stepped down to take responsibility for the uproar over airline staff’s participation in earlier actions. Two other organizers of recent protests, including CHRF leader Jimmy Sham and Max Chung, were attacked Thursday in the latest of several reported incidents of mob violence against activists.891 Arrests, 2,071 Tear-Gas Canisters: Hong Kong’s Protests By the NumbersTaiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen -- who has helped resuscitate her re-election prospects by criticizing Beijing’s handling of the protests -- was among the first officials to express concern about the arrests. She called on authorities to comply with their promises of democracy, freedom and human rights to the city’s people, according to a statement from her office.While the three arrested activists are among Hong Kong’s most prominent opposition voices --- Wong was the subject of a Netflix documentary titled “Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower” -- none has been seen as a central figure in the recent protests. The decentralized movement relies on social media apps and chat rooms to propose, vote on and revise protest plans on the fly.Still, Wong has come under scrutiny for his meetings with U.S. officials, with China’s foreign ministry urging Americans to “draw a clear line with all anti-Chinese rioters, stop sending wrong signals to illegal violators, stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs.” Wong was planning to travel to the U.S. in September to speak out against what he described as authorities’ plans to establish “martial law” ahead of the National Day holiday.Countdown to 2047: What Will Happen to Hong Kong?: QuickTakeThe latest charges against Wong resulted from his role in a June 21 rally, in which he encouraged demonstrators to surround the police headquarters complex in Wan Chai, days after his release from jail on separate protest-related charges. His party Demosisto said Wong was on his way to a subway station when he “was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street,” adding that the group’s lawyers were working on the case.Wong and Chow were later released on bail, the Ming Pao newspaper reported. Chan, the pro-independence founder of the banned Hong Kong National Party, said in a post on his personal Facebook page that he was stopped at the city’s airport departures area on Thursday night.“They’re trying to plant a seed of fear in people’s minds, so that people will stop from attending protests, either the one tomorrow or ones in the future,” said Alvin Yeung, a pro-democracy lawmaker. “But my judgment is they won’t succeed, because Hong Kong people are very brave.”(Updates with warning of more arrests in headline and first sentence.)\--With assistance from Sheryl Tian Tong Lee, Annie Lee and Shawna Kwan.To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Natalie Lung in Hong Kong at flung6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Karen LeighFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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