Beijing mouthpiece Wen Wei Po raised eyebrows after it “predicted” the arrests of several pro-democracy activists on Thursday. The report was apparently compiled hours before the actual arrests took place.

Nine activists were arrested by police around 7am over their involvement in a protest last November against an impending Basic Law interpretation by Beijing. They face charges of participating in an unlawful assembly, obstructing police officers and causing public disorder.

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Protesters at the protest outside the China Liaison Office last November. Photo: HKFP.

But hours before the surprise round-up, Wen Wei Po found out about the plan and reported on the action.

On page A5 of its Thursday edition, Wen Wei Po said it had an “exclusive” scoop, reporting that as many as ten activists would soon be arrested for their participation in the November protest.

“We learned that police will launch a new round of arrests today, at the earliest” it wrote.

“Nearly 10 people are expected to be arrested, including the leader of a political party and active members of new opposition groups. They may face charges such as organising and participating in an unlawful assembly.”

On Thursday, pro-democracy party League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng was arrested along with eight other activists.

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Wen Wei Po’s A5 report. Photo: HKFP.

Some questioned Wen Wei Po’s report. “Does this mean police are teaming up with Beijing-backed papers? Don’t police owe an explanation to the public?” said Tommy Cheung, who is facing prosecution for his leading role in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy movement.

Activist Joshua Wong of the Demosisto party also urged police to explain how the pro-Beijing paper obtained the information.

“Police usually release press releases at midnight. Now, they are even working with Wen Wei Po to ‘predict the future’ in an unprecedented move,” Civic Party lawmaker Alvin Yeung said.

He accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – who is set to leave office in June – of abusing his power until the last moment. “[Incoming leader] Carrie Lam is complicit for not speaking up. She is obviously not sincere about reconciling with the opposition camp,” Yeung added.

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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Besides Avery Ng, eight others facing prosecution are:

  • 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.