Hong Kong police have arrested eight top pro-democracy figures on suspicion of unauthorised assembly during a July 1 protest.

Leung Kwok-hung, Figo Chan and Tang Sai-lai of the League of Social Democrats, and Eastern District Councillors Tsang Kin-sing, Andy Chui and Lancelot Chan were among those arrested on Tuesday morning by Hong Kong Island Regional Criminal Unit officers.

Tsang Kin-shing, Leung Kwok-hung, Eddie Chu, Lancelot Chan, Figo Chan, Wu Chi-wai and Andy Chui were among those arrested. Photos: HKFP/InMediahk.net/Facebook.

Ex-lawmaker Eddie Chu was arrested for organising and participating in the assembly at his residence. He was taken to Yuen Long police station and Pat Heung police station according to his Facebook page. And the Democratic Party said on Facebook that their former chair Wu Chi-wai was also arrested at around 6:35am for allegedly inciting and participating in the assembly. They cited a source saying that police showed a search warrant and took away clothes Wu was wearing on July 1.

‘Banned’ July 1 demo

Thousands participated in an assembly near Wan Chai and Causeway Bay on July 1, despite a police ban on the annual pro-democracy demonstration. It was banned for the first time in 17 years, amid the enactment of the national security law a day before and the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 370 people were arrested.

Figo Chan – then the vice-convenor of Civil Human Rights Front – told reporters on the day that they would insist on initiating the march despite a police ban.

In a video livestreamed on Figo Chan’s Facebook page on Tuesday, an officer accused him of inciting others to take part and knowingly participate in an unauthorised assembly.

He also stands accused of holding or organising an unauthorised assembly, as well as knowingly taking part in it.

Separately, an arrest warrant was issued for a ninth pro-democracy activist Koo Sze-yiu on Tuesday morning under the Fire Services Ordinance in relation for unpaid fines from two years ago, according to a statement from the League of Social Democrats. Koo is expected to report to Cheung Sha Wan police station on Wednesday morning at 9:30am.

Police confirmed the eight arrests made under the Public Order Ordinance on Tuesday morning. “[The police] arrested eight local males aged between 24 and 64 today in multiple districts in Hong Kong. The eight males are alleged of violating the Public Order Ordinance, related to instigating others to knowingly participate in an unauthorised assembly, holding or organising an authorised assembly, and knowingly participating in an unauthorised assembly,” a statement read.

Leung Kwok-hung and Koo Sze-yiu. Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

All of them were released on bail at lunchtime on Tuesday – they will appear in court next Thursday.

‘Chilling effect’

In a press release, the League of Social Democrats said that the police are seeking to cause a chilling effect by rounding up democrats, citizens and students en masse: “The mass arrest of democrats is undoubtedly retaliation against the US sanctioning of the 14 vice chairpersons of the National People’s Congress over [Beijing]’s disqualification of democrat lawmakers.”

Last week, a court jailed three ex-Demosisto activists on unauthorised assembly charges. Activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were sentenced to 13.5 months, 10 months and seven months behind bars respectively.

Meanwhile, media mogul Jimmy Lai, founder of the pro-democracy Apple Daily, was denied bail and remanded in custody last Thursday after he reported to a police station. National security law designated judge So Wai-tak said there is a high chance of Lai absconding after being charged with alleged fraud over his office lease. The case will be heard on April 16 next year.

Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.