Police have arrested three men for spray painting public property with localist messages and another for carrying a box cutter and other tools amid Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Hong Kong.

Police confirmed to HKFP that three men aged 25 to 59 were arrested Thursday in association with three instances of graffiti on public property such as road signs. They stand accused of criminal damage.

Graffiti on a banner celebrating the Handover. Photo: Street Art Boy, via Facebook.

Police said they were alerted to the street art on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau of the Kowloon West Regional Police Headquarters arrested the men in Sau Mau Ping, Kwun Tong.

Police said they found the graffiti work at three locations: Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok, a footbridge on Mong Kok Road, and Ap Liu Street in Sham Shui Po.

handover arrest
Photo: Street Art Boy, via Facebook.

The locations correlated with three pictures posted on Facebook page “Street Art Boy” showing public property spray painted with the message “Hong Kong has been fallen for 20 years.”

road sign
Message on a road sign on Fa Yuen Street. Photo: Street Art Boy, via Facebook.

The Facebook page was deactivated as of Thursday evening, though HKFP was able to access it earlier in the day.

Before the page was taken down, it had posted photos of various graffiti work – often with political messages – across the city.

Localist group Hong Kong Indigenous said in a statement on Thursday evening that one of those arrested is a member. It said he was being held at the Kowloon City Police Station.

A map on Mong Kok Road footbridge. Photo: Street Art Boy, via Facebook.

It claimed police threatened to arrest his family members if he refused to admit having committed the acts. The activist’s lawyer later told Hong Kong Indigenous that his father and younger brother had also been arrested.

The lawyer was quoted as saying that the activist’s mother was also being sought.

“We strongly condemn the abuse of power and human rights violations by the police,” the group said. “We do not rule out the possibility of taking further action in the next few days.”

A Twitter user posted a photo of the Ap Liu Street road sign on Thursday evening. The artwork appeared to have been covered by new paint.

Cutter and scissors

Meanwhile, outspoken localist Nakade Hitsujiko, 25, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of possessing offensive weapons and instruments that could be used for unlawful purposes.

Nakade Hitsujiko
Nakade Hitsujiko. Photo: Facebook.

Police told HKFP that they arrested Nakade at 10am and that he was still in police custody as of Thursday evening.

Nakade was searched by police officers at the West Kowloon Cultural District near the Western Harbour Tunnel, where a heavy police presence was seen on Thursday. Xi visited the West Kowloon Cultural District in the afternoon.

Police said they found upon Nakade a cutter, a pair of scissors, antenna, cable ties and a remote controller potentially attached to a drone, according to Apple Daily. They did not find any drone.

Local media cited sources earlier as saying that police officers have been instructed to crack down on sensitive slogans and images in order to avoid “embarrassing” Xi.

Meanwhile, huge banners welcoming Xi and celebrating the Handover have been spotted across Hong Kong.

handover decoration
West Harbour Tunnel poll stations. Photo: Kowloon East Community, via Facebook.

See also: Fortress Hong Kong – City on security lockdown ahead of President Xi Jinping’s visit

The government has stepped up security measures across Hong Kong and in particular Wan Chai, where Xi is staying and will be inaugurating incoming leader Carrie Lam on Saturday. Police have placed giant water-filled barriers in the area, citing terror threats.

Xi is visiting Hong Kong between Thursday and Saturday. He will visit the Shek Kong Barracks of the People’s Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison on Friday morning.

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