On the eve of the five-year anniversary of the decision by the National People’s Congress on August 31, 2014, to establish screening procedures for Hong Kong’s chief executive selection, rather than allowing true universal suffrage — leading to the Umbrella Movement from late September to December — the government has apparently decided it is time to ramp up the crackdown on protesters. Here is the latest.
Activists and lawmakers are arrested
On Friday, the Hong Kong pro-democracy youth activist group Demosistō tweeted:
BREAKING: Our secretary-general [Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 Huáng Zhīfēn] was just arrested this morning at roughly 7:30, when he was walking to the South Horizons MTR station. He was forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight. Our lawyers following the case now.
BREAKING: Our secretary-general @joshuawongcf was just arrested this morning at roughly 7:30, when he was walking to the South Horizons MTR station. He was forcefully pushed into a private minivan on the street in broad daylight. Our lawyers following the case now.
— Demosistō 香港眾志 (@demosisto) August 30, 2019
Demosistō later added that another one of its leaders, Agnes Chow, was also arrested.
Lawmakers were also put under arrest, the New York Times reports:
Three pro-democracy lawmakers, Cheng Chung-tai, Au Nok-hin and Jeremy Tam were arrested Friday, according to the police, a legislative assistant and Facebook posts from their offices.
“More than a dozen people” in total were arrested since Thursday, the Washington Post said, including pro-independence activist Andy Chan.
Wong and Chow were later released on bail, and gave defiant statements to the media — see Demosistō’s Twitter page for the latest.
Chinese state media was not pleased that the two of them did not stay locked up, with the Global Times writing [sic], “The release of two heads of secessionists in Hong Kong on Friday, hours after their arrestment the same day, had deepened concerns that a banned rally on Saturday could turn into extreme violence.”
The New York Times reports that the arrests are all part of a deliberate strategy to stem the protests, even though the protest movement has been described as leaderless, and Wong in particular had “publicly called this summer for protesters not to use violence.”
Officials in Beijing, along with the Hong Kong government that answers to them, have decided on a policy of stepped-up arrests of demonstrators, who would be publicly labeled the most radical of the activists, according to Hong Kong cabinet members and leaders of the local pro-Beijing establishment…
Beijing and Hong Kong officials are betting that the protests will gradually die down as the police detain the most hard-line demonstrators, and that public opinion will turn more decisively against the use of violence, said Lau Siu-kai, a longtime adviser to the Chinese government on Hong Kong policy.
The Hong Kong police said on Friday that they had arrested more than 900 people this summer in connection with the protests. Some of the local political figures estimated that as many as 4,000 protesters were seen by the authorities as radicals, but that it was unclear how many would eventually face legal action.
Carrie Lam cannot withdraw the extradition bill
In a tense confrontation at a press conference on August 13, Reuters reporter James Pomfret asked Chief Executive Carrie Lam, “Have your hands been tied by Beijing?” and “Do you have the autonomy or not to withdraw the extradition bill?” Lam did not directly answer his questions.
Pomfret and Greg Torode now report that the answer is that Beijing vetoed a proposal by Lam to withdraw the bill:
Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters’ five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory.
The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Students are warned not to protest
Sophia Yan and Anna Kam of The Telegraph report:
Chinese police are warning mainland students enrolled in university programs in Hong Kong to stay away from “illegal mass protests and street violence,” The Telegraph can reveal, as authorities try to suppress the unrest.
Students received text message alerts from local police this week that said “please stand firm on the position, ‘love the country, love Hong Kong,’ and by no means should you participate in any form of illegal assemblies, marches or demonstrations.”
Some students may not listen, though it’s not clear how many of these could be from the mainland: “Up to 10,000 students from close to 200 Hong Kong secondary schools could walk out of classes on Monday, as the new term begins against a backdrop of continuing street protests,” the SCMP says.
Other news from Hong Kong
“Hong Kong tourist arrivals dived abruptly in July, falling 4.8 percent year on year as anti-government protests continued to rock the city…Numbers for visitors from all markets except South and Southeast Asia decreased, while the number of tourists from mainland China fell for the first time since January last year, declining 5.5 percent to 4.16 million,” the South China Morning Post reported.
“Cathay Pacific has warned staff they risk being sacked if they join a planned Hong Kong strike, as the airline intensifies its crackdown on employee support for the rolling pro-democracy protests,” according to AFP.
In response to cyberbullying, the Hong Kong Police Force has “started handing out rape alarms to the children of officers amid online threats including hate speech and calls for attacks against them,” the SCMP says.