Asia-Pacific News

Hong Kong police arrest democracy activists ahead of Xi Jinping visit

Key Points
  • Hong Kong police have arrested protesters ahead of a high-profile visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • The police have detained prominent activists including student leaders from the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
  • Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow were among those arrested.
Student protest leader Joshua Wong shouts as he is carried by policemen as protesters are arrested at a monument symbolizing the city's handover from British to Chinese rule, a day before Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive for the celebrations, in Hong Kong, China June 28, 2017.
Damir Sagolj | Reuters

Hong Kong police have arrested protesters on the eve of Chinese President 's visit to the city to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its handover from Britain to China.

The demonstrators had gathered around the Golden Bauhinia statue to express their frustration with what they perceive as Beijing's encroachment on democratic values.

The police said that by climbing up the sculpture and displaying banners, the protesters "endangered their own safety and public safety." Authorities have yet to provide information on expected release times.

Those detained include a handful of young activists who were propelled into the international spotlight during the 2014 Umbrella Movement, when thousands poured into the streets, occupying major commercial areas of Hong Kong for 79 days.

Pro-democracy party Demosisto confirmed that the police picked up at least seven of its members, including Umbrella Movement leaders Nathan Law, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow.

Law, 23, won a seat on Hong Kong's Legislative Council in September, making him the city's youngest ever legislator.

Local authorities said they seized 26 individuals between the ages of 19 and 61.

Outside of the police station, Derek Lam, spokesman for Demosisto, called on Hong Kong people to join the protest on Saturday, the 20th anniversary of the transfer of Hong Kong's sovereignty.

Videos and images on social media showed police dragging protesters, including Wong and Law, out of the area. Some of them shouted "I want real universal suffrage" as they were being taken away.

@wu_venus: Police arrested & carried student leader @joshuawongcf on all fours. "HK people, don't give up! Protest on July 1!" he shouted #Hongkong

Earlier on Wednesday, Wong reiterated his call for direct election and nomination of the chief executive, the head of the local government. In Hong Kong's most recent election, eligible citizens could cast votes, but only for candidates that had been nominated by a committee filled with Beijing loyalists.

China argues that this process qualifies as universal suffrage, since all eligible voters are able to cast a ballot, but pro-democracy advocates disagree, arguing that screening of candidates undermines the democratic process.

The bauhinia became the emblem of Hong Kong in 1997. The central government gave the statue to Hong Kong as a gift that year to mark the handover and the city's transition to a special administrative region. The monument remains a tourist attraction, especially for those visiting from mainland China.

@joshuawongcf: We cover up statue symbolizing Hong Kong's return to Communist rule to against Beijing's suppression on HK democracy ahead of Xi visit.

Earlier this week, demonstrators shrouded the Golden Bauhinia in black cloth to express their concern about declining autonomy in the special administrative region.

"Our confidence in 'One Country Two Systems' has waned and is replaced by the fear of it becoming 'One Country 1.5 Systems,'" Demosisto said in a Monday statement.

Xi is expected to arrive in Hong Kong on Thursday.