Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged the Hong Kong government to stop its “orchestrated” campaign to prosecute dissidents, following Thursday’s surprise arrests of nine activists over their participation in a protest last November.

“The repeated use of vague charges against prominent figures in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement reeks of an orchestrated and retaliatory campaign by the authorities to punish those that advocate for democracy in Hong Kong,” said Mabel Au, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.

liaison office protest
Police near the China Liaison Office. Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

She said the government attempted to discourage participation in peaceful protests through the prosecution of activists.

“The Hong Kong government should be protecting freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she added, “but instead it appears intent on intimidating people who are challenging the authorities.”

‘Indiscriminate arrests’

On Thursday morning, nine pro-democracy activists were arrested by police at their residences. They face charges of participating in an unlawful assembly, obstructing police officers and causing public disorder.

The action came just one day after two ousted lawmakers of localist party Youngspiration and their assistant were charged with allegedly participating in an unlawful assembly for trying to barge into a legislative meeting last November.

“I was surprised by the prosecution,” activist Dickson Chau Ka-faat, one of those arrested on Thursday, said outside the Western Police Station. “But there is nothing new about indiscriminate arrests by police.”

Dickson Chau Ka-faat
Dickson Chau Ka-faat spoke outside the Western Police Station. Photo: Avery Ng, via Facebook.

Chau said he was charged with obstructing and assaulting police officers, but that he could not recall having physical contact with an officer. “But I remember police hit my arms with their batons when I tried to prevent them from attacking other protesters,” he said.

Activist Derek Lam of the Demosisto party said he expects more arrests in the lead up to July 1, which marks the 20th anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong. It is also when Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam is set to assume office.

He said the roundup “clearly” showed incumbent leader Leung Chun-ying wanted to suppress the opposition camp within his last two months in office, as well as pave the way for Carrie Lam when she assumes her new post.

Last November 6, around 4,000 people tried to gather outside the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong – against police instructions. Clashes between police and protesters ensued, with pepper spray and police dogs deployed.

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The nine activists facing prosecution are:

  • Avery Ng, Dickson Chau Ka-faat and Chan Man-wai of the League of Social Democrats.
  • Derek Lam Shun-hin and Ivan Lam Long-yin of the Demosisto party.
  • Sammy Ip and Lo Tak-cheong of the group Student Fight for Democracy.
  • Cheng Pui-lun, the former president of Lingnan University’s student union.
  • Chow Shu-wing of People Power.

They will appear in the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts at 2:30pm next Friday.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.