Hong Kong police have arrested two student activists in connection with activities scheduled for Saturday, when the city marks two years since police and pro-democracy protesters clashed violently outside the government headquarters.

Activist group Student Politicism said on Friday that its convenor Wong Yat-chin, 20, and spokesperson Alice Wong, 19, were picked up by police. The force later confirmed that the pair were apprehended for allegedly inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly and publicising and publishing an unauthorised assembly.

Wong Yat-chin Student Politicism
Wong Yat-chin. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Superintendent Wilson Tam of the Technology Crime Division said there were calls on different social media platforms asking people to take part in an unauthorised assembly in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay on Saturday, June 12.

At a press briefing, Tam showed screenshots of social media posts shared by Student Politicism, including a poster dated on June 9 about a street booth in Mong Kok scheduled for 7 pm on Saturday. The poster included a line that read: “Two year protest anniversary, are you still here?”

On June 12, 2019, tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters blocked roads around the Central Government Offices in Admiralty to object the now-axed extradition bill. Police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds to clear the crowds. The demonstration later escalated into a months-long unrest, as opposition to the bill morphed into wider calls for democracy.

Wilson Tam
Wilson Tam of the police technology crime division. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Tam alleged that the student group posted videos about protesting with violence, including encouraging others to hurl petrol bombs. He said the force did not receive any applications to hold a march or rally on Saturday, calling the arrested activists “irresponsible” for publicising a gathering that had no police approval.

On Student Politicism’s Instagram account, the group shared a video on May 22 titled “Should we use force to resist?” They argued that when people could not resist in a peaceful and rational manner, “using force becomes the only means of defence.”

Asked which specific sentence or phrase showed the group had promoted an unauthorised assembly, Tam only repeated that the online posts called on people to come out, adding the force had other evidence which could not be disclosed at present.

Student Politicism
Police show social media posts by Student Politicism. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

“The post itself is soliciting people to come out to participate in an unauthorised assembly… whether we are tracing back the history of what the organisation has posted, the posts are still there,” he said.

Street booths

The student group convenor and spokesperson are still in custody for investigation and police seized their mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices during the arrests.

Wong Yat-chin was detained last Friday after his group set up a street booth in Mong Kok to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre by playing a BBC documentary on the bloody crackdown. He was released on bail the next day.

Alice Wong Student Politicism
Alice Wong (right). Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Asked why police did not make arrests prior to the student group’s street booth last Friday, given that some social media posts appeared in advanced, Tam said the force had not seen the posts at that time: “We haven’t monitored these things everyday.”

The student group – founded in May last year – is one of the few pro-democracy organisations that continue to hold street booths after the passage of the national security law last June.

The sweeping legislation outlaws secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.