Hong Kong (AFP) – Nine democracy protesters were arrested in Hong Kong Thursday over an anti-Beijing rally in the latest swoop by police as activists say they are being persecuted.
Concerns are growing that the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms are under threat from Beijing, fuelling calls from some groups for greater autonomy or even a complete split from China.
Pro-independence activists Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung were arrested and charged Wednesday over causing chaos in the legislature after being barred from taking up their seats as lawmakers last year.
And last month nine pro-democracy activists — including student protesters and lawmakers — were charged for their roles in mass 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement rallies.
The spate of arrests come ahead of an expected visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover of the city by Britain back to China in 1997 on July 1.
“I believe the police have set out to arrest all street activists so they won’t dare to protest when Xi Jinping visits,” pro-democracy leader Joshua Wong told AFP.
Nine protesters were arrested Thursday over their participation in a rally in November against China’s decision to intervene in the row over whether to disqualify Yau and Baggio.
That protest outside China’s liaison office in Hong Kong saw scuffles as demonstrators charged barriers and police used pepper spray to drive them back.
The rally was triggered after Beijing announced it would make a special interpretation of Hong Kong’s constitution to determine whether Yau and Baggio should be prevented from taking up their seats after staging an anti-China protest during their oath-taking.
Beijing’s final ruling, two days after the rally, effectively ensured the pair were barred.
– ‘Fight continues’ –
Two of those arrested Thursday belong to new pro-democracy party Demosisto, co-founded by student leader Wong.
Others included members of the long-standing pro-democracy party League of Social Democrats (LSD),…